Oct. 12Editor's note: This article has been corrected to better describe the role of the Baptist system's patient placement center.
Hospitals in Memphis and nearby took part in a big training exercise Wednesday that simulated how the community would respond to a mass shooting that wounded hundreds of people.
A total of 354 live volunteers arrived at about 19 hospitals and rehab centers around the Memphis area, playing the role of shooting victims, said Heather Fortner, interim regional hospital coordinator with the Mid-South Emergency Planning Coalition.
Many of the volunteers were drawn from local health care professional schools and high schools and many of them wore makeup to simulate wounds, Fortner said.
These live volunteers brought with them details of "paper patients," she said, referring to additional shooting victims that the hospital would have to process. The exercise involved a total of 900 fictional patients, including the volunteers and "paper patients."
Forter said the local hospitals face a mandate from their accreditation agency to carry out an exercise each year that tests their ability to respond to a big surge of patients.
She said the hospitals decided months ago to pick a mass shooting scenario for this year's exercise. "Las Vegas just showed us that that's definitely a reality that could happen," Fortner said.
The Oct. 1 mass shooting at a Las Vegas concert killed 58 people plus the gunman, and wounded hundreds more. At the only level-one trauma center in Las Vegas, patients kept arriving nonstop for two or three hours, the New York Times reported, and shooting victims also flooded into other Las Vegas hospitals.
All the participating facilities do their own evaluations of the exercise and will make improvement plans, she said.
At the Regional Medical Center, spokeswoman Angie Golding took part in the drill as part of the incident command center. "There's always opportunities to improve but overall I felt it was a good exercise...Everything kind of worked and fell into place according to plan."
She said The Med didn't bring in additional staff. "Obviously the real patients are the first priority and then we have people who can step out and participate in the drill," she said.
For the Baptist system, the drill gave staffers a chance to simulate moving patients among the system's hospitals throughout the region, said Nick Lewis, director of employee safety and environment of care, and Deborah Hall, system director of patient placement. Baptist's patient placement center tracks beds for 12 of the system's 21 hospitals.
"We're able to identify what the patient needs and who can provide care to that patient," Hall said.
Reach reporter Daniel Connolly at firstname.lastname@example.org or 529-5296, and on Twitter at @danielconnolly.
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