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Hospitals become more prepared each year

By JR Ortega
May 23, 2012 at 12:23 a.m.


ABOUT THE EMERGENCY MEDICAL TASK FORCE

These teams make up the task force of each of the state's eight regions. Most of the Crossroads, with the exception of Refugio County, are in Region 8. The region stretches west, covering most of South Texas while Region 11 covers most of deep South Texas. Here are the teams:

• Ambulance strike teams - Each task force can use up to 25 ambulances for deployment.

•  AmBus strike teams - Each task force will be staffed with two multi-patient vehicles known as AmBuses. The buses are equipped with medical equipment.

• Mobile medical units - This is basically a mobile emergency room made up of physicians, nurses, paramedics and other life-saving and emergency care equipment.

• Registered nurse strike teams - These nurses will go with certain groups of patients depending on which hospital they are evacuated to.

SOURCE: ncttrac.org

So much has changed when it comes to planning for hurricanes, Robbie Kirk knows. He's been an emergency services coordinator with Citizens Medical Center for 17 years.

Preparing for hurricane season for those on the Gulf Coast is nothing new. Every June 1 to Nov. 30, many people monitor tropics, especially those like Kirk, who have to make sure evacuating patients runs as smooth as butter.

"Preparation has become more efficient and the coordination with San Antonio has become tighter," he said. San Antonio has long been where those along the south Texas coast have evacuated to.

The newest component is an Emergency Medical Task Force, which was developed by the Texas Department of State Health Services to have a network of medical teams stay connected regionally.

The idea is to offer emergency medical assistance in a rapid way, especially in large incidents, such as a hurricane evacuation, Kirk said.

For Kirk, along with other emergency management coordinators, the training never stops.

The force's biggest weapon is the AmBuses. So far, there are five across the the state, but the idea is to have 13. The bus and several ambulances will be available for the evacuations.

Those too sick for the bus will use the ambulances.

Of course, the hospitals will also use existing resources through their collaboration with local, regional and state entities, Kirk said.

Last year's new change was the use of armbands on patients, which, when scanned, shows the patient's name and medical information.

"It's a big leap forward," he said of all the changes he's seen.

All these tools are used to make the evacuation process easier not only for those conducting the evacuation, but the evacuees themselves, he said.

"We're all on the same page," he said of how other hospitals in the area handle the situation.

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