Stellenbosch Hospital Staff Exercise their Emergency Skills
Western Cape Government Health staff at Stellenbosch Hospital together with other role-players today took part in an unplanned mass incident exercise. These exercises are executed to ensure that should an event occur that results in many patients needing care at one time, such as a bus accident; the staff are able to manage the sudden influx of patients.
Today’s exercise took the form of a bus accident on the Helshoogte road, involving 20 Grade 8 learners from Luchoff High School. The local Emergency Medical Services had arranged with the school that the learners involved would use the opportunity to practice their dramatic abilities.
The call came through to the hospital at 9:09am. Within a few minutes all necessary staff were activated and ready to receive the first ‘patients.’ The learners took to their task with alacrity and some were very convincing actors.
The exercise was made all the more difficult due to the following factors:
- The hospital is currently also a building site and is still working in its old, cramped emergency centre, the new one is almost complete
- The waiting patients were required to extend their waiting time, but quickly got involved in the excitement, once they were told what was happening, some even offering to help!
- A few of the staff members including a doctor and some theatre personnel were required to leave the exercise to manage a real emergency patient.
Even faced with these challenges, by 10:49, (1 hour and 40 minutes), all patients were accounted for and had been evaluated as to their condition (triaged) and were either, referred to a higher level of care, admitted to the hospital for further care or were treated and prepared for discharge. A number of patients had been taken to the Ida’s Valley Clinic so that all levels of care interact to ensure that everyone it treated and accounted for .
As a further exercise and a take-home lesson for the learners involved, one of the psychologists, Dr Broekman, debriefed the learners, and gave them a quick lesson in how to manage anxiety and remain clam by controlling their breathing.
All in all it was an excellent exercise and as one of the learners put it, ‘The best part was riding in the ambulance, and when the nurse was so kind to me.’
All Western cape Health Facilities together with the EMS station closest to them are required to have a mass incident plan, that is practiced annually. This was the 6th exercise to take place in the Cape Winelands during the last couple of years.