By Zach RehnstromMarch 12, 2019
Members of the MEDDAC team working in collaboration with components from the Air and Army National Guard developed a scenario, where an 8.1 Richter scale earthquake brought extensive structural damage to the hospital, making the facility incapable of completing their patient care mission.
"We created conditions that the staff [doesn't] see day to day," U.S. Army MEDDAC -- Fort Stewart, Emergency Manager, Wilson Rodriguez said. "The staff was confronted with degradable operations and created a challenge for their leaders in the emergency operations center to go formulate an incident action plan."
The disaster management scenario was just one of the moving parts in the national inter-agency, multi-service Patriot South exercise hosted by the National Guard Bureau, and the Aeromedical Liaison Team.
"We actually got to interface with the ALT," MEDDAC-Fort Stewart Chief of Emergency Medical Service, Jim Ochoa said. "What their purpose is, is to come into a facility like ours and provide us with the resources, so we can evacuate our patients that require care to other hospitals throughout the United States."
During the exercise, members of the MEDDAC team would have a specific set of objectives that Rodriguez and the exercise planning team would be expected to complete during the chaotic scene. Hospital department proficiency in executing vertical inpatient evacuation, assessing the patient evacuation and transport process, assessing the ability for the Emergency Operations Center to manage the incident, and assessing the ALT Coordination process.
"Working with them, we learn about the administrative component of what it takes for them to move the patients," Ochoa said. "We learn the logistical components of what we need to move the patients and then, lastly, the practical component of being able to actually package patients, prepare them for evacuation and then load them on whichever airframe that they send us to evac that patient out to those medical staging facilities."
During phase one, the Intermediate Care Ward, Operating Room, Post Anesthesia Care Unit, Mother Baby/ Labor and Delivery, and the Behavioral Health Unit had to use portable evacuation sleds to transport their patients down three to four flights of stairs because all electrical operations were compromised.
"Being in Georgia, we usually try to get ready for tornados, Noncommissioned Officer in Charge, ICW Sgt. Cassandra Louis said. "With an earthquake we are not really used to it so we have to really get the entire hospital the whole staff involved in case something like that would have happened."
The Mother Baby/ Labor and Delivery unit utilized the sleds but also took the initiative to assess the correct utilization and implementation of the Safe Place Evacuation Vest and the transport of the sensitive patient population.
"We had the privilege of caring for our mother, whose baby was undergoing phototherapy for hyperbilirubinemia," MEDDAC-Fort Stewart, Officer in Charge, Mother Baby Unit, Maj. Elizabeth Flege said. "That posed a unique challenge in that we had both mom and baby, and being able to take that equipment along with the baby and ensuring that both mom and baby were safe and they were not separated.
Both the phase one vertical evacuation exercise and the phase patient evacuation exercise played a pivotal role in the successful completion of the Patriot South mission and the continued readiness of MEDDAC.