Preparing hospitals for toxicological mass casualties events

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Abstract

Objective

For most hospital staffs, treatment of chemical casualties presents an obscure and even frightening situation. We report our unique experience from hospital drills in order to improve hospital preparedness for patient management under mass casualty conditions involving hazardous chemicals.

Setting

Twenty-one major hospitals in Israel.

Interventions

A unique hospital deployment plan for the management of chemical casualties was developed, and hospitals were required to have a full chemical practice drill every 3 to 5 yrs. These drills were designed as realistically as possible, and all included the use of personal protective equipment, decontamination, and treatment of simulated patients. Twenty-five percent of these patients, simulating children and adults, required intensive care and ventilation support. Hospitals were inspected and reviewed on the quality of treatment given and the overall continuity of care as well as on their administrative performance.

Results

Between 1986 to 1994, 30 full chemical practice drills were conducted in 21 major hospitals. Each drill included treatment of 100 to 400 simulated patients. The lessons from the hospital drills are described and were incorporated in the proposed revised hospital deployment plan. All hospitals significantly improved their ability to respond appropriately to these incidents.

Conclusions

The level of preparedness for a chemical mass casualty scenario should be established according to the existing threat and the available resources. The proposed plan can serve as a basis for hospital planning and staff training worldwide, thus facilitating optimal care in the event of an incident involving toxic chemicals. A cost-effective scale for hospital preparation levels according to the existing threat is suggested. (Crit Care Med 1999; 27:1004-1008)

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