Kingston hospital leads the way in CBRN preparedness

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As Nancy Roberts and Jerry McKelvey were introduced to Kingston General Hospital’s (KGH) chemical, biological, radiological and nuclear disaster preparedness plans, the pair said they hoped to set up a similar program at their hospital in the heart of Ontario’s cottage country.”I’m impressed,” said McKelvey, who heads up the maintenance department at Haliburton Highlands Health Services, as he walked through a portable storage container located beside the emergency ramp at KGH. “My main question was storage of the equipment and I came here to get ideas.”

McKelvey and Roberts joined nearly 60 representatives from hospitals across the province in the spring to learn the ins and outs of the chemical, biological, radiological and nuclear (CBRN) response program at KGH.

The first of its kind in Ontario and headed up by the hospital’s security and life safety services, the KGH plan is viewed by the rest of the province as a model. Designated as a “level one” response hospital for up to 100 casualties, the Ministry of Health and Long-term Care gave KGH $186,000 in personal protective equipment, such as gas masks and protective suits, as well as a multiple decontamination shower system.

The hospital has since spent about $60,000 to purchase a storage shed and additional protective equipment required to safely role out the CBRN program.

Brenda Conway, management co-ordinator of the CBRN program at KGH, said she invited the guests for a full morning of information seminars, tours and a question and answer period because it’s best to learn from the people who’ve already been through it.

“The day was a huge success… totally positive,” Conway said afterward. “They asked us lots of questions and we shared some of the plans that we’ve already started developing.”Conway said most representatives were impressed by the scope of KGH’s CBRN program.

“We’re definitely the leaders,” said Conway. “So many hospitals don’t even have the equipment, let alone the policies and procedures in place to run a CBRN program.” Conway said she hopes the information day will encourage the guest hospitals to organize their own CBRN programs.

“If they don’t do it now, they’ll be behind and forced to play catch up. I hope we helped show them what needs to be done.”

The guests took measurements, asked questions and snapped photographs as they toured a mock demonstration in the decontamination tent, which will be set up just outside the emergency room doors during a CBRN event. “They loved seeing the whole set up and how it worked,” Conway said. “We showed them how the decontamination process works.”

Wendy Parker, chair of the incident management committee for southeastern Ontario and director of emergency planning at Quinte Health Care, praised security and life safety services for its work in developing a CBRN program.”The leadership that KGH is providing for the LHINS (Local Health Integrated Networks) is excellent,” Parker said. “To open this training up to hospitals outside of the region is terrific.”

Conway and Tom Davis, manager of emergency planning and life safety, continue to train KGH staff on the personal protective equipment and have recently expanded to nurses at Hotel Dieu Hospital. Conway was a guest speaker at a Federated Press Emergency Planning Conference last week and some of the ideas from KGH’s emergency preparedness program are currently being featured at a CBRN hospital readiness conference in Toronto. Locally, Conway is presenting a poster presentation about the KGH CBRN plan at a critical care conference in Kingston this week.

Hotel Dieu and the three sites of Providence Continuing Care Centre (PCCC) are working with the emergency planning team at KGH. Hotel Dieu is preparing to receive its CBRN equipment. Pandemic planning has already started at the St. Mary’s of the Lake Hospital site and Tom is slated to host a code yellow demonstration at PCCC in the coming weeks.

Despite its smaller size and resources, McKelvey said hospital officials in Halibuton have started talking about creating a CBRN program modelled, in part, after the one at KGH.

“We’re still in the growing stages but it will be interesting to see the responses when we let them know what we learned today. It has to be a co-operative effort of the doctors and community partners to do something like this.”