Ready for the worst

Equipment to help ensure county is ready for an emergency

In the case of a terrorism event or other public health crisis, one of the first things hospitals would run out of is beds.

Even if 1 percent of Moffat County's residents fell ill, it would overwhelm The Memorial Hospital's capacity, said Clyde Anderson, Moffat County's emergency manager.

TMH is licensed to operate 29 beds, according to Community Relations Director Pam Thompson. That doesn't include emergency room beds, which could add room for four or five more patients.

But in the event of a large-scale crisis, less critical patients would have to be moved, victims would have to be triaged. The need would arise for an overflow site, which would have to be outfitted with medical supplies.

Anderson recently picked up a shipment of supplies that could mitigate the problem.

The U.S. Department of Health and Human Services provided the county with a cargo trailer filled with provisions for about 50 patients. Anderson drove to Rifle to pick up the trailer. Today, officials from TMH will review the supplies.

"The State of Colorado is required to have a plan for handling 500 hospitalized victims per 1 million population," according to a report by the Colorado Department of Public Health and Environment.

The trailer and its supplies are part of that plan, Anderson said. The trailer carries cots, IV poles, cribs, stretchers, tourniquets and other medical equipment in its stock. Nothing in the trailer is perishable, so finding a storage site shouldn't be too difficult, Anderson said.

Although TMH is only licensed to operate 29 beds, the rules would change in the case of a large emergency, said Hospital Administrator Randy Phelps. The "emergency hospital" would operate under the authority of the Colorado Office of Emergency Management.

"We would work with Clyde (Anderson) to expand capabilities," Phelps said. "It wouldn't necessarily be on these premises."

TMH and it's personnel would help staff the temporary hospital, Phelps said.

The surge of emergency preparedness is being driven by terrorist concerns, but the new supplies don't have to be used for responding to terrorist events.

Any public health crisis that overwhelms the hospital's capacity can trigger the deployment of the trailer and it's "hospital surge cache," Anderson said.

"It can be used in any situation where hospitals have more patients than they have room for," Anderson said.

And because it's so mobile, the reserve can be transported to other jurisdictions where it might be needed in case of a large-scale emergency.

For example, Anderson cited a food-borne illness outbreak in Fort Collins.

"That was enough to stress their medical care system over there," Anderson said. "That could happen anywhere."

Anderson said the trailers are strategically placed throughout the state.

If TMH became overwhelmed, patients in more critical conditions could be transported out. The hospital could triage patients in hallways or other areas of the hospital.

"We would find room for them," Thompson said.

A temporary hospital could be set up in a number of locations "other than the traditional patient rooms," Anderson said.

Moffat County may receive more grants for emergency preparedness and when this year's grant awards are announced.

Last year, Moffat County received $273,000 in Homeland Security grants. Anderson said he should know next week how much money Moffat County will receive.

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