Thomasville -- The damage to Sumter Regional Hospital shocked many, including other hospitals. But the results could have been much worse if they hadn't been prepared.
Fortunately the Georgia Hospital Association has a detailed plan in case of a disaster. Archbold Memorial in Thomasville is the coordinating hospital for emergencies, for 16 counties in southwest Georgia.
Mark Swicord, is director of the Emergency Department at Archbold Memorial Hospital. When a disaster occurs, like the one that devastated Sumter Regional Hospital, just two hours away, he says what makes the difference is how you are prepared for it.
"The care of our patients is the first thing. We've got to make sure patients are safe, we gotta make sure staff is safe."
Archbold is one of 13 emergency coordinating hospitals in the state for the Georgia Hospital Association. The association is an agreement between all the hospitals in Georgia to give aid to each other in time of crisis. When disaster strikes, Archbold is responsible to care for the people in the 16 county region they cover.
"We're having an event, you know there's going to be people injured in the community, people are still going to have heart attacks they're still going to have car wrecks, so we've got to think about continuity of care not just dealing with the event."
Swicord says if something like what happened in Americus happened here, they will be prepared. "We would evaluate our facility to determine whether we could have held patients in here or not. If not then we would have sent a call out for help that we need to evacuate."
"One part of Archbold's emergency plan is a fleet a of hospital vehicles. In case they need to evacuate the hospital, they can easily transport patients to other hospitals. You start looking at, what patients can you move quickly, let's go ahead and get the most people out of here the quickest you can."
Communication with other hospitals is also key in the time of crisis. "We have a number of means to do that, via radio, Internet, we've got a software program that we use to communicate, telephone, we use all the resources that we have available to make sure that we can always get that message through."
If a hospital can get that message to the emergency coordinating hospital in their region, that hospital will coordinate resources and help for the hospital in trouble.
The Georgia Hospital Association is in the process of installing ham radio systems in all of the 13 regional coordinating hospitals as another element for communication during emergencies.