Field Hospitals Ready for Crisis

The Houston Fire Department EMS is expanding its ability to handle emergency situations on-site. Houston Public Radio's Capella Tucker reports a regional Medical Surge Team will be able to set up temporary hospitals in a matter of a couple of hours to respond to a disaster situation.

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The outside is deceiving ... a white and blue dome tent with a zipper door.

But step inside, it's well lit, air-conditioned and has all the medical equipment necssary for triage at an emergency event. HFD Assistant Medical Director Doctor Emily Dean says it's purpose is to establish alternative medical care sites in a crisis situation.

"In each shelter we can handle anywhere from 20 to 50 patients at at time depending on the need. This particular room is our isolation room which we might use for patients in pandemic situations for isolation such as we had in Katrina when we had an outbreak of GI bug patients such as that can be seen in this room. Also, this can be set up as an isolation room for patients that might come from a hospital."

For about the last five years, hospitals have been doing planning through the Regional Hospital Preparedness Council to standardize response during emergency situations. Administrative Director Douglas Havron says the Medical Surge Team extends that cooperative effort.

"We've come almost full circle with our abilities to help our pre-hospital partners in looking at the assets we need to care for our patients in a collective manner or maintain medical infrastructure throughout the region, both in the metropolitan area and the ability to deploy such assets like this out into our more rural areas."

The field hospitals will be a regional resource for not only Harris County, but the surrounding counties as well. During emergency situations resources can be stretched thin at the state and federal levels. Houston Fire Department EMS Division Deputy Chief Blake White:

"We know that a lot of other areas don't have the resources that we have in the Houston area and we look at that and we say well, we know that D-MAT teams, which are the Disaster Medical Assistance Teams in the region and state resources are going to be stretched as far as dealing with some of those other areas that don't have the resources that we have here and having this equipment will allow us to get up these types of facilities in a much more timely manner."

Each physical facility costs about $650,000 and is paid for through U.S. Department of Homeland Security grants. The medical equipment and pharmaceuticals cost about $500,000 and paid through National Bio-terrorism Hospital Preparedness Program. Capella Tucker, Houston Public Radio News.

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