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Many Treated at Mock Bioterrorism Exercise

Posted on Tuesday, October 17th, 2017

Practicing for Disaster: Laura Guerrero, LPN, makes a record of medication
dispensed to adult nurse practitioner Rhonda Mose while incident commander
Michele Lively (back) maintains radio communications with health and safety
officials during a mock bioterrorism exercise at Mercy Health/Love County
Hospital on October 12, 2017.

Both the Love County Health Department and Mercy Health/Love County Hospital experienced a high rate of participation in operating separate mock bioterrorism exercises on October 12. An imaginary outbreak of plague, a contagious disease, had occurred. The institutions needed to obtain and administer a plague-fighting medicine.

Volunteer “patients” by the hundreds turned out at the public exercise site in the parking lot of McClain Stadium. This was a drive-through drill in which mock medicine was dispensed to volunteers while they remained in their vehicles.

Mercy Health/Love County’s 150 employees tested their response in a closed exercise within the hospital.  At this site, employees walked through to receive the mock medicine.

In each case, respondents were simulating treatment in the event of a public health outbreak or crisis. The purpose of the exercise was to test the capabilities of the plans in place to protect citizens and keep the hospital operational.

A Health Department spokesperson reported treating 398 mock patients in one hour, well in excess of the stated goal of 270 patients per hour.  At the hospital, Michele Lively, incident commander for the exercise, said a total of 65 doses of a mock medicine were dispensed to staff members in one hour, compared to the goal of 26 doses.

One thing that was not mock was the pre-planning involved for the public health and safety officials, as well as hospital staff.

The hospital, for example, maintains, a “crash cart” of supplies and organizational materials to set up for treatment at any time.  The goal is to treat or vaccinate staff and their family members quickly so hospital workers can remain on the job disease-free to take care of people who become ill as a result of the outbreak or crisis.

During an incident, arrangements must be in place for tasks such as driving to a dispensing site to pick up medications, securing the facility, performing triage on participants to separate the well from the ill, giving out masks to wear to prevent exposure to illness, filling out health forms to learn about possible allergies, administering the medication, completing a record, and maintaining an open line of communication with area public health and safety officials.