Gunnison Hospital mock-crisis is ‘quite realistic,’ chief nurse says
GUNNISON—A group of foreign tourists make a vacation journey through Southern Utah; before long, Gunnison Valley Hospital admits multiple patients with symptoms of a flu-like illness; the hospital immediately establishes a command center and prepares to quarantine patients infected with both Ebola and the H1N1 virus.
Luckily, this is only a script from a mock-crisis scenario the hospital participated in, along with hospitals from five other counties, that simulated a highly virulent outbreak in order to be better prepared if a similar scenario actually happened.
The mock crisis was organized by the Six County Association of Governments, which serves Sanpete, Juab, Millard, Piute, Sevier and Wayne counties, all participated in the training scenario, it took place on Thursday, June 22.
“This all happened really quickly,” GVH Human Resources Director Liz Brown said. “The [infected volunteer] patients presented themselves, and we set up our command center with the CEO [Mark Dalley] in charge.”
Brown said 14 “patients” checked in with symptoms within a two-hour period. A triage was set up; patients were categorized by the severity of their symptoms and “infected” patients were quarantined into a separate wing of the hospital.
Home health nurses were recruited to assist in the patient care scenario.
“It was quite realistic,” Brenda Bartholomew, chief nurse at GVH, said. “We tried to make it a real learning experience by playing along just as if it were a real outbreak situation, and since we’d never been in that scenario before, we learned a lot about what we should do.”
Bartholomew was pleased with the way her nursing staff handled things. “They did not allow the panic to cloud their judgment. They were organized, efficient and never lost sight of the fact that the patients come first.”
Doug Shober, head of the Emergency and Preparedness Team at GVH, said the simulation was definitely a success.
“For the first time, we activated our command center, which has been in place to help with these types of situations but had never previously been tested.”
The command center is primarily in charge of coordination and communication between the hospitals internal staff and outside entities.
“We came away with a list of small things to add, like additional phone lines in the command center; but, overall it was seamless,” Shober said.
Brown said the drill was especially helpful in finding the gaps in the hospital strategy for dealing with a potential pandemic issue.
“It was helpful to me to understand better how I can do my job in a situation like this,” Brown added. “If a pandemic lasted three weeks, having adequate staffing and protecting them and their families from the illness becomes vital. We can’t treat patients if we don’t have the staff to do it.”
The final segment of the simulation was a debriefing of the participating hospitals to discuss areas of strength the exercise revealed, as well as areas for improvement.
Doing so, as well as participation in the event in general, was important for the hospital, said CEO Mark Dalley,
“We take our role as primary care partner for the Sanpete County community very seriously, and this simulation allowed us to ensure that we are capable of providing high-quality care even in a situation outside of the norm,” Dalley said.