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Apr 30, 2010

K.H.M.H. tests safety preparedness but are they ready?

simulation 5It was a busy afternoon at the K.H.M.H wards as organizers of a fire drill secretly made final arrangements to execute a simulation that would see its staff spring into emergency action.  After almost a decade of not having prepared itself for sudden eventualities that would put medical personnel and patients at risk the staff was caught blindsided.  News Five’s Isani Cayetano was on hand to experience the chaos that ensued.

Isani Cayetano, Reporting

A chemical fire inside the surgical ward of the Karl Heusner Memorial Hospital shortly after three o’clock this afternoon sent doctors and nurses scrambling to the nearest emergency exits. A thick cloud of white smoke blanketed the corridors of the ward while fire alarms sounded repeatedly on the second floor.  During the evacuation several patients were carried down a flight of stairs at the rear of the building.  Police, fire, and other emergency personnel responded to the scene within a few minutes of the alarm and quickly conferred with each other as to the best approach to tackle the situation.

Outside firemen suited up to enter the hospital while the medical staff attended to the evacuees.  Once inside the firemen were able to rescue five patients who were trapped inside the burning ward.  While the events of this afternoon were based on an actual crisis situation, the entire scenario was only a simulation exercise staged by all the various government departments. Delsey Lizama assisted in organizing the exercise.

Delsey Lizama

Delsey Lizama

Delsey Lizama

“We decided to do a simulation exercise in conjunction with the Fire Department, B.D.F., BERT, Police and everybody involved who would normally respond to a real fire. We decided to do that at Karl Heusner because we haven’t done a simulation exercise for the past I would say eight years or so and we know that fire is a real threat. So we decided to do a simulation exercise to see where we are, what we need to do, where we need to go so that we can make those necessary corrections.”

Isani Cayetano

“In terms of the response by the relevant authorities, the Fire Department, the Belize Defence Force and of course the Police Department, how fast was their response?”

Delsey Lizama

It was fast enough because I believe when they got the message that there was a fire at Karl Heusner they really moved fast knowing that there are patients who will not be able to help themselves. So in my estimation, I think they responded quick enough.”

Kenneth Mortis

Kenneth Mortis

The quick response of the fire department was an important part of saving the building and its occupants and according to Kenneth Mortis the performance of his men was satisfactory.

Kenneth Mortis, Training Officer, National Fire Service

“Our response was primarily to assist in the removal of victims that could not be removed by the KHMH medical staff. What happened, as we saw today, was an exercise of a fire that broke out in the surgical ward and some five patients were left behind due to whatever severity of the injuries that they sustained and the Fire Department’s primary role like I mentioned earlier was to remove these victims before further harm could have been done to them.”

Isani Cayetano

“How effective were your men in terms of getting in, getting the patients and getting out?”

Kenneth Mortissimulation

“Just off the top of my head, I think we did a good job. We took like six minutes to effectively remove just about five victims from the building. So it was a job well done but we go back to the drawing board and see how we can iron out whatever obstacles that may have arise out of this exercise.”

The simulation could not be done throughout the entire hospital because there were real patients being attended to.  Hospital officials say they will assess the performance of their staff on Monday. Reporting for News Five, I am Isani Cayetano.

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