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Waikato emergency 'players' put to the test for V8s
Waikato emergency response agencies put themselves to the test with a state-of-the-art virtual emergency training exercise in anticipation of the Hamilton V8s this weekend.
St John and the Ministry of Health purchased the Swedish Emergo Train System last year, and Waikato was the one of the first regions to put it into practice last month.
With the virtual 'players' including St John, Police, Fire, and Waikato District Health Board's Emergency Department and Trauma Service staff, the training took place in two sites; Waikato Hospital and Hamilton City Council's Emergency Operations Centre in Duke St.
The scene was set at 9am where an accident on the V8 race track causes a rush of people into the corner of a spectator stand at the Hamilton 400 event.
The stand collapses, causing a mass casualty and an emergency response is required.
The players used 12 magnetic whiteboards between the two sites that represented locations where emergency response would be conducted from, including a casualty clearing post, St John resource, and transport sorting area at the race track.
At Waikato Hospital, the whiteboards represented the ED waiting room, triage area, the ED itself, wards, Intensive Care Unit, High Dependency Unit, operating theatres and radiology.
The players involved in the simulation used 'gubers', which are magnets, to simulate real patients with real injuries and vital signs.
In addition to patients, there are gubers for various emergency services and personnel who would be involved in the incident as well as doctors, nurses, attendants and radiologists, to name a few.
Specific gubers also represented 'the walking wounded' who self present at ED, their relatives and friends, bystanders, salvage vehicles – even the media – anybody who would be involved in the real event is factored into the training exercise.
The players on the day treat the patients as they would in a real situation.
Waikato DHB emergency management services manager Stuart Cockburn said an enormous amount of planning is required to carry out such an exercise.
"We had to take into account everything we could think of that would actually happen during such a mass casualty event," he said.
"We made sure we accounted for a normal patient load in ED on the day as well, using the same numbers we had through that day last year, as well as staffing numbers in all areas and anticipated staff numbers we know we get when we put out a call for a mass casualty.
"The exercise even asks we take into account ambulance transfer times."
Although the exercise is a simulation, Mr Cockburn said it was carried out in real time.
"While the ambulances are transferring patients from the accident scene, we can't do anything to help those patients, and their conditions reflect that until they get to us. We used real ambulance transfer times from the accident site to the ED.
"Adding to that is that as players, we move the gubers that represent medical personnel from various locations within the hospital (on the whiteboards) and while staff are treating a 'patient' they are out of play for any other response – in a real situation a staff member can only do one thing at a time – so that's how we have to play."
Mr Cockburn said other real factors were taken into account, including the assistance of private medical centres Anglesea, Radius and Victoria Central, and transfer of patients to those facilities in real time.
"We used Waikato's new ED floor plan as another challenge to see how that will work in the future."
The players at both sites kept in constant contact via cell phone throughout the three-hour exercise, keeping each other informed of transfers and requirements from both sites.
"The exercise was very successful for all who took part," said Mr Cockburn.
"It demonstrated that the new ED will cope with large numbers of patients, if we have sufficient staffing.
"The exercise also proved a vital tool in enabling all emergency services to work together and learn from each other, raising a number of questions and areas for improvement among all services' current plans for dealing with these incidents.
A comprehensive report is now being compiled by the exercise steering committee and will be sent to Health Waikato's chief operating officer and the Ministry of Health, and other areas of Health Waikato will undergo the training in the future.
For more information about the Emergo Train System, visit www.emergotrain.com and for high-resolution images of the training exercise, contact Amy Thomsen as below.
Date: 15 April 2010