Hot off the Lancet – Earthquake at the Hospital

By John Pickering 16/04/2012

Having come down four flights of stairs I stood at the side of the road beside the hospital entrance as the first of the casualties went past on the back of utes and in private cars.  The entrance to the Emergency Department of Christchurch Hospital was about 40 m to my right.  I was but a spectator – the wrong kind of doctor.  That day many extraordinary people did many extraordinary things.  Some, some of whom are my colleagues in the University of Otago Christchurch, have taken the time to reflect on events that day, the response of the health system, and what lessons they could share with others.  Today an article appeared in the Lancet.  Below are a few excerpt:

Michael W Ardagh, Sandra K Richardson, Viki Robinson, Martin Than, Paul Gee, Seton Henderson, Laura Khodaverdi, John McKie, Gregory Robertson, Philip P Schroeder, Joanne M Deely, The initial health-system response to the earthquake in Christchurch, New Zealand, in February, 2011, The Lancet, Available online 15 April 2012, ISSN 0140-6736, 10.1016/S0140-6736(12)60313-4.

They were prepared

“During a mass casualty incident response, the inter- national disaster colour triage differentiation is applied in the emergency department ….The plan is rehearsed annually…”

“Loss of electricity was the most important disruption to Christchurch Hospital’s ability to provide services. The emergency department was prepared with supplies of torches, lights, and headlamps…”

They were challenged

“During the earthquake the hospital was subjected to severe shaking. Staff could not stand unaided, …ceiling panels fell…water conduits began to flood the hospital…power was lost…a generator failed…a section of the ambulance bay collapsed”

They reacted quickly

“Within minutes of the earthquake a young girl was carried into the emergency department by a stranger who had found her buried in the rubble.”

“Within 2 h of the earthquake, the first national ICU teleconference was organised to coordinate the transfer of patients in intensive care out of Christchurch.”

Well done Emergency Department, Intensive Care, Radiology, Blood Bank, Christchurch Health Labs and all others involved.

Tagged: christchurch earthquake, emergency, health