Mock drill tests responders

Christus Ochsner St. Patrick had its mass casualty incident drill Tuesday, responding to a mock plane crash and fire at the Lake Charles Regional Airport.

Working alongside several state and local agencies, first responders and hospital staff used the Louisiana Emergency Response Network to treat injured passengers. A city transit bus brought several patients in full wound makeup to St. Patrick Hospital for treatment. Staff members wore a vest or jacket with a brightly-colored label that showed their official hospital title.

Scott Kyle, Christus regional manager of emergency management, said they strategically organize treatment plans with Louisiana Emergency Response Network officials, instead of throwing them together “haphazardly.” LERN personnel can provide first responders with up-to-date resources and route injured patients to the best facility for treatment.

Candice Thibodeaux, Christus clinical director of emergency services, said many volunteers rush to the aid of mass casualty victims. During a chaotic scenario, all responders have to be focused, she said.

“With the incidents of mass shootings and things that can happen with the petrochemical plants in the area, it’s very important for us to drill an influx of patients to see how far we can be taxed,” Thibodeaux said.

The drill brought in 20 patients to the emergency room within the hour, far more than the usual three to four patients an hour. Kyle said a mass casualty incident is defined as “one more patient than you can handle.”

Responders to a mass casualty incident also have to consider other circumstances, including the number of ER beds, staffing and whether a hospital is a trauma center, Kyle said. Because none of Southwest Louisiana’s hospitals are official trauma centers, Thibodeaux said drills are needed to make sure services are organized and patients are treated quickly.

“We must make sure that everyone, from our emergency department to our surgery department to outpatient, can function, literally, taxed to the max,” she said.