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MCH prepares for disaster

Posted: Tuesday, Aug 20th, 2013

Front, left to right, Heather Bomstad, chief nursing officer; Carol Elam, medical staff liason; and back, Pat Bradway, safety/emergency preparedness coordinator, set up the command center during Mendota Community Hospital’s disaster drill. (Reporter photo by Jennifer Sommer)

MENDOTA - A simulated train/school bus accident on the tracks in Ladd producing multiple injuries brought would-be victims to Mendota Community Hospital on Aug. 17 during a disaster preparedness drill.

The scenario: a train en route from Chicago to Princeton struck a stalled school bus causing a derailment. There were multiple victims in both the bus and train cars, some seriously injured. Multiple fire and ambulance responded and area hospitals were notified.

Illinois Valley Community Hospital and St. Margaret’s Hospital, along with LaSalle and Bureau county emergency departments participated in the mass drill. MCH’s goal in participating in the exercise was to test their emergency operation plans.

MCH hospital staff starting receiving information on the mock disaster mid-morning on Saturday. First tested was the hospital’s emergency disaster call list, and their mass communication tool, Everbridge, to call in more staff to support the influx of patients.

“In a drill, some staff are more apt to say they cannot come if they are at a family event or something, but I have been here for a lot of years, and during the real thing, everybody is ready to participate,” said Pat Bradway, safety/emergency preparedness coordinator for MCH.

Bradway commented that she felt the response on Saturday was adequate.

Just as quickly as calls went out to staff, a command center was set up. Bradway, along with Heather Bomstad, chief nursing officer, and Carol Elam, medical staff liaison, manned the communication post.

Security guards outside the building kept the area secure and clear.

Medical staff assessed and treated victims.

Kim Kennedy, MCH human resource manager, was ready to answer questions from the media and concerned family members.

“Every drill is a learning experience…it just helps us improve. Practice doesn’t always make it perfect, but it makes it a lot more manageable when something happens,” said Bradway on the importance of these exercises.

MCH conducts at least two drills a year, one of which involves an increase of patients. The purpose is to see if they can handle the medical surge, monitor supplies, communicate, and follow an incident command structure.

Bradway commented on Saturday’s drill, “It went very well. It gave us a really good chance to test our plan in real time scenario. We always find things we want to tweak or make better or change, but overall the plan seemed to work and be very realistic.”

Bradway will now meet with department managers to review drill and submit a report to the Illinois Department of Public Health.

Bradway is confident that the MCH staff is ready to handle a disaster, either internal or external, and that should be very comforting to the community. “We strive very hard to be prepared,” she said.

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