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Swissair Tragedy


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Hospitals mobilized to deal with expected survivors



Susan Corkum-Greek
Lighthouse staff

 COUNTY - While in the end there were no survivors of Swissair Flight 111, Lunenburg County's two hospitals were mobilized to deal with the crash.

 Starting at about 11:20 p.m., dozens of medical and support staff were called in to either South Shore Regional or Fishermen's Memorial Hospital. This included everyone from doctors and nursing staff, to lab and X-ray technicians, materials management, switchboard, housekeeping and admissions personnel.

 "Basically, we have a disaster plan in place both to deal with situations that may happen within the facility, (for instance) if we had to evacuate . . ., but also in the event that something major happens outside the community and we have to receive a large number of casualties," Jerry Fraser, general manager for the operating Health Services Association of the South Shore, said September 3.

 The plan includes procedures for calling in additional staff. Once these people have arrived, "we assess the situation . . . relative to what patients can be moved . . . to make room for the pending new casualties."

 Mr. Fraser said the response from HSA personnel was swift and professional. "Certainly from our perspective as managers, we're very pleased, impressed, with the overwhelming response, the numbers of people that were in, the timeliness of them getting in. We felt confident that we were in a position to receive large numbers of casualties if we had to."

 Immediate reports from emergency response personnel indicated as many as 100 casualties could be routed to the facilities. "So basically we phoned in everyone that was available" - in excess of 100 people, he said - "and kept everybody here until about 2:45 this morning."

 At that hour, confirmation of the crash site, off Ironbound, and relocation of the primary emergency response centre from Bayswater to Peggy's Cove, made it likely that any casualties would be routed to the city, rather than South Shore hospitals. Still, it was 3:30 a.m. before remaining staff were allowed to go home.

 Mr. Fraser said the situation at no point affected regular emergency or outpatient services at the hospitals. It never got to that point, he said. In fact, "as it turned out, it was quite a reasonably quiet night (despite) some movement of patients."

 He described the mood in the hospitals as a combination of "anxious anticipation that everybody is going to respond appropriately and the stress and strain that that brings on, but . . . also the hope that there was going to be survivors and playing a role in meeting their needs."

 A debriefing session will now be held to identify any weaknesses in the hospitals' response. "As with any unusual occurrence like this, there's always going to be some deficiencies and some areas of improvement," said Mr. Fraser. "It's a continuing improvement process," and a way to "do better for the future."


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