Emergency response funds help hospitals prepare

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When it comes to preparing for emergencies, Kingston’s hospitals are positioning themselves well. At KGH, a multi-disciplinary Emergency Planning Committee is in its second year of revising all 14 of the organization’s emergency response plans, which cover everything from a missing patient to being prepared for the arrival of mass casualties. The committee includes representatives from Providence Continuing Care Centre, Hotel Dieu Hospital and Kingston, Frontenac, Lennox & Addington Public Health. Kingston’s health-care partners are also working together on emergency planning through a committee of the Southeastern Ontario Health Sciences Centre.

“A large part of being prepared is not only knowing what to do, but to have access to the necessary tools in order to respond,” notes Tony Weeks, KGH Director of Security and Life Safety Services.

As the major in-patient tertiary centre for southeastern Ontario, KGH has been designated as a Level 1 hospital and will receive the lion’s share of funding for the area – $185,000 in equipment and training which will allow it to treat up to 100 casualties at any given time. Hotel Dieu will receive $26,267 as an ambulatory facility able to deal with up to 10 casualties at once. The funding is part of a $13.5 million commitment by the province to increase the level of CBRN preparedness in Ontario hospitals.

The funding comes at an excellent time, says Dr. Paul Dungey, Medical Director of Emergency at KGH and HDH. “The equipment and training funding recently approved by the provincial government will go a long way to provide our staff members with necessary equipment, such as personal protective gear, and training to respond to chemical, biological, radiological and nuclear (CBRN) incidents.”

“We are very excited about this initiative. In terms of preparedness, it’s a huge step forward for not only Kingston’s hospitals, but also the communities we serve.”

“Our community, like many others in the province, is surrounded by potential hazards. We have an airport, railways and several industries that work with potentially harmful substances. Also, living along the 401 corridor constantly puts us at risk of transport accidents carrying hazardous materials. We must be prepared. This is an excellent example of the province taking the lead to ensure that everyone is equally prepared,” Dungey says.

The equipment at KGH will include a portable, self-contained decontamination tent that can ensure any patients exposed to CBRN agents can be decontaminated outside of the hospital, reducing risk to other patients and staff. It will also provide personal protective equipment at both hospitals for employees, radiological/nuclear monitoring systems and air samplers as well as other emergency supplies.

“I am particularly pleased to see that the funds will also assist in the enhanced training of our hospital staff for all types of emergencies,” Dungey says.

The emergency preparedness initiative is part of Operation Health Protection, a three-year plan to revitalize Ontario’s public health system. It was launched last June in response to recommendations from the Campbell and Walker reports, examining the impact of the SARS crisis across the health-care system.

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