Are hospital workers ready for Haz-Mat disasters? - WALB.com, South Georgia News, Weather, Sports

Are hospital workers ready for Haz-Mat disasters?

January 21, 2005

Albany- South Georgia hospital workers spent the morning in hazmat suits simulating a major chlorine spill like the one Graniteville, South Carolina.

"We've had a lot of table-top training, a lot of book training, but nothing hands on. It's a whole different experience," says Palmyra Medical Center employee and Albany-Dougherty Search and Rescue Team member Chuck Mitchell.

"That's the whole take home lesson from this thing is we're not prepared," one instructor tells the group.

Though course instructors say the participants did well, they've got a long way to go if they want to successfully handle a situation like Graniteville.

"This is what this is designed for. Preventing contamination of the hospital itself," says course coordinator Chuck Studley.

Studley says the goal was to teach students to get to contaminated victims early.

"We've learned that 80% of the time these people will self-transport to the hospital. So, if they have become contaminated, we have contaminated people entering the hospital," says Studley.

"You could shut down an entire emergency room if you did enter it contaminated depending on what the contaminate was."

Instructors say it's important for all hospital employees, not just doctors and nurses, to learn the techniques and practice regularly with kits provided by emergency management agencies.

"Our target audience is not medical people per se. We're looking for administrative, housekeeping, security type folks to do this training, so in a real event they can go ahead and set up and do this, freeing up the clinicians to go ahead and do their work inside the hospital," explains Studley.

While they may not be quite ready to tackle Graniteville yet, instructors say the key is practice so that when disaster strikes they'll be ready.

Hospital employees from at least four South Georgia counties participated in today's training. The course is one of 16 that will be held around the state.

Posted at 4:30 PM by elaine.armstrong@walb.com

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