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WMC Active in Bioterrorism Planning

"Preparing for a Bioterrorism attack is something we're actively involved in-and hopefully we will never use." said Deanna Pittman, Wilson Medical Center Administrator. "But many parts of the plan could be used for other disasters like tornadoes, ice storms and other natural disasters. We are also interested in being part of deciding how the money allotted to each region is spent."

The Southeast Kansas Regional Hospital Bioterrorism Group is one of six in Kansas. The group held their last meeting in Neodesha on February 18 to update the 2003 plan. Last year the group met to develop a plan and decide on how to use their grant money. WMC Employees active in regional activities include Susie Olson, Human Resources Committee Chair; Marilyn Seller, EMT, Patient Transfer and Transportation; Karla Kneebone, RPh, Pharmacy Management; Linda Ritter, RN, Isolation and Infection Control; Michelle Bohannon, RN, Personal Protective Equipment and Decontamination; and Janiece Erbe, MT(ASCP) Laboratory.

What are some of the issues these committees are asked to consider?

Medical Triage includes plans for increasing available bed capacity using other facilities like nursing homes and classrooms. In case of an emergency, just how many patients can you put in each room? How do you share scarce resources such as ventilators? What is the best way to determine available isolation facilities? What is the best way to save our children? Where is equipment for children located--like pediatric endotracheal tubes?

Pharmaceuticals includes cataloging existing location of drugs and how to distribute them to other hospitals in case of an emergency. What occupations will be the priority for prophylactic medications? How about their families? What additional medications are needed for biological events-and chemical and radiological terrorism? What antibiotics should be included in a priority listing of purchases?

Mental Health needs include establishing connections with mental health providers and American Red Cross Disaster Services. In our communities, ministers play an important part of the puzzle.

Chemical and Radiological Terrorism Plan needs to include a current inventory of personal protective equipment and decontamination plans at each facility. The chemical hazards risks needs to include local Co-ops, manufacturing plants and local agriculture chemical suppliers. Radiological hazards from "dirty bombs" include three types of patients: patients with radiation sickness, patients who are contaminated with radioactive materials and patients with traumatic injuries from the dirty bomb's debris. Trauma patients and burn patients also need to be part of the plan. The hazard analysis includes hazardous chemicals moving throughout the region by road and rail-important piece of the puzzle in a town like Neodesha with a major highway and lots of train activity.

Human and Volunteer Resources includes protocols for identifying and training volunteers prior to the emergency. What tasks could volunteers perform? How should we locate retired medical professionals who might be willing to help? How to handle non-human resources such as supplies that might be donated?

Laboratory Capabilities include preparing a regional plan for isolation and identification of organisms during a biological attack. The regional plan also needs to address moving testing of routine patient samples to alternate facilities in order to accommodate more critical emergency tests at facilities.

Each participating hospital received $25,000 to be used to help meet their Bioterrorism needs through a State of Kansas Grant-funded by the Federal Government. Some purchases were required by the Kansas Department of Health and Environment unless the hospital had already purchased items-which we hadn't.

This included personal protective equipment for chemical/radiological emergencies-protective suits, cooling vests, hoods, goggles and face shields. We also need equipment to create a decontamination facility-adjustable flow shower heads, wading pools, tarps, medical surveillance kits, radiation detector, long handled sponges and other items. Another priority is equipment for creation of an airborne isolation room. Hazmat Boots, suits and other personal protective equipment is also on our list. Communications equipment needs include two way radios and a computer with internet access which will allow communication with the Communicable Disease Center and Kansas Department of Health and Environment's PHIX (Public Health Information Exchange) System.

In addition to the $25,000 grant, participating hospitals receive free .training for their decontamination team. Our team is Michelle Bohannon, Ray Kissel, Julie Nichol, Betty Shoop, Audrey Thompson, and July Wittum. Another benefit is the conversion of a patient room in our facility to provide a negative pressure area in case airborne isolation is required.

Who has the major responsibility of seeing the Bioterrorism Guidelines are met at WMC? This is being handled by two WMC nurses-Safety Director Michelle Bohannon and Infection Control Nurse Linda Ritter. We'll try to keep you informed about preparedness plans in our hospital as they develop.