An overhead page “Mock Code Grey, Diagnostic Imaging” is heard throughout Lakeridge Health Bowmanville. Immediately clinical staff grab their department’s Code Manual to find out what they have to do. Some quickly jump into leadership positions – thriving on the high adrenaline while others offer their help. Security is quick on the scene, as well as Lakeridge Health management. Soon a Command Centre is called and the group is acting out what would happen during a real Code Grey.
Standing in the corner, overseeing all of this is James Ramsey, Lakeridge Health’s Manager of Security and Emergency Preparedness. While he’s taking notes on items he wants to include in the debrief, he’s also providing staff with words of encouragement. “Even though this is a mock code it can still be a stressful experience for those who have never participated in a mock or a real code situation,” he says. “That’s why it’s so important that we conduct regular surprise mock codes. Practice makes perfect.”
Like many hospitals throughout Ontario, Lakeridge Health has adopted a series of codes that are designed to be initiated when a crisis occurs. They are consistent with the Ontario Hospital Association’s (OHA) standards. Because they are practiced widely throughout the health care industry, it makes for a smoother transition when several organizations are affected at the same time by a specific crisis (e.g. SARS).
You just have to watch one episode of Grey’s Anatomy to see that a hospital can be affected by a number of internal and external factors. Examples of an external crisis could include weather or power related issues or accidents, or disease within our communities. Internally; fire, hazardous materials, and behavioural issues by persons in the hospital are seen as possible codes.
Emergency Preparedness affects everyone at the hospital yet it’s not something we are all hired to do, so as the Emergency Preparedness Manager, James’ main role is making sure that all staff feels confident and comfortable in a crisis situation. This is done through conducting regular Mock Codes as well as education around Lakeridge Health’s Incident Management System (IMS).
It’s now time to run through the debrief with staff. James discusses with the department their successes and opportunities. He listens to their concerns and answers their questions about the role of the hospital’s community partners. Some wonder if fire services would be called in. He explains, “In addition to the internal exercises we conduct, critical to our success are the relationships Lakeridge Health builds with community partners. We have established strong relationships with our emergency first responders such as Fire Services, EMS and Police. These relationships are invaluable and help all of us manage crisis in the most effective way,” he explains. He then tells a story about five years ago when he gave Fire Services a routine tour of the Lakeridge Health Whitby site.
Less than 2 weeks later there was a devastating fire at the Whitby site. That routine tour played a large role in ensuring patients and staff were safely evacuated from the building. James also explains that often Ontario Power Generation or local schools are called in to help participate in the Mock Codes, ensuring they are also learning what to do in a time of crisis.
He finishes the debrief by telling staff that, “We create and perfect our plans for a number of reasons but the most important reason is that we want to ensure our hospital has plans in place that protect our staff, patients and visitors from harm,” says James. “From our Emergency First Responders, to the folks in Environmental Services, Engineering and Infrastructure, and Clinical Operations, we all have a key role to play in keeping each other safe.”