Orange County Hospitals Prepared for Terrorist Attack, Survey Finds
In response to the Sept. 11 attacks on the World Trade Center and the Pentagon, the Orange County Register surveyed 25 county hospitals to determine "what they've been doing to prepare" for a potential terrorist attack and "what they have yet to do." The 22 emergency rooms and three trauma centers said that they could collectively treat about 5,300 patients -- the number treated in New York City on Sept. 11 -- in the event of an attack. To prepare for an attack, many hospitals in the county have sent staff members to training sessions run by the CDC and the Federal Emergency Management Agency. The Register reports that the county runs two disaster drills a year with each hospital. Doctors, nurses and ambulance crews participate in the drills to improve their response time and to "streamline" treatment for patients in the event of bombings or biological or chemical attacks. However, the Register reports that emergency rooms "already are jammed" with patients, and on Sept. 11, the county only had 733 open beds. In the event of a "disaster," hospitals would use parking lots as triage centers, and doctors would perform surgeries in any "clean area" with proper lighting. Six area hospitals plan to expand their emergency departments. Anaheim Memorial Medical Center has built a decontamination shower as a defense against chemical or biological attacks. Although experts have dismissed bioterrorist attacks as "highly unlikely," the county has urged physicians to report any "unusual diseases" or "clusters of similar symptoms" (Heisel/Saar, Orange County Register, 9/30).This is part of the California Healthline Daily Edition, a summary of health policy coverage from major news organizations. Sign up for an email subscription.