NSHA does well as it prepares for the worst

Fake wounds

Natural disasters, pandemics, infrastructure failures (think hospital flooding) and unexpected violence around the globe show how important it is to be prepared for all hazards and emergencies.

Nova Scotia Health Authority (NSHA) put its emergency planning to the test when staff, physicians, nursing students and volunteers took part in a major mock exercise in Yarmouth on Thursday, Oct.15.

Yarmouth Regional Hospital emergency department staff received casualties, based on a mass shooting exercise at the ferry terminal. The main exercise was organized by the Canadian Armed Forces with partners that included the United States military, Canadian Border Services, Emergency Health Services, RCMP, the Department of Health and Wellness, and others.

At the hospital, make-up artists from the military moved in to add extra realism to the fake injuries worn by the nursing students and other volunteers playing the part of shooting victims.

“It was amazing how quickly the doctors, nurses and paramedics came together to deal with the situation, while at the same time giving individual attention to each patient,” said Tasmiah Rahman is a third-year student at the Yarmouth site of the Dalhousie School of Nursing who sported a fake head wound.

The hospital called a mock code orange, which alerted staff to start moving patients safely out of the emergency department in order to be ready to receive the influx of casualties.

The overflow area next to the emergency department was used for the exercise so regular patient care was not interrupted.

A family room was set up with staff to support volunteers acting as upset family and friends of the victims. The local emergency operations centre (EOC) was activated and was in constant contact with the zone and provincial NSHA EOC.

 “Through this exercise we are able to strengthen our emergency preparedness capabilities,” said Hubert d’Entremont, site manager of Digby General Hospital and also emergency response planner. “Great team work was evident throughout the preparation for this exercise as well as the excellent work during the actual event.”

As for the exercise at the ferry terminal, the shooters escaped aboard the Princess of Acadia ferry and made a slow getaway. The Navy, Coast Guard and RCMP managed to retake the ferry and arrested the suspects, completing the exercise.