One person who works with Missouri hospitals to prepare for disasters says one can never be completely ready to respond to an event on the scale of an EF5 tornado. Vice President Leslie Porth with the Missouri Hospital Association, however, offers nothing but praise for the staff at two Joplin hospitals who had to do just that.
Porth oversees emergency preparedness for the Association. She says hospitals nationwide have undergone extensive training since the terrorist attacks of September 11, 2001, largely with the support of federal dollars. She says thanks to that training the staff at St. John’s Regional Medical Center was able to evacuate 183 people in 90 minutes. The same training allowed the nearby Freeman Health Systems hospital to care for about 1000 patients in 12-16 hours, as they came from St. John’s or directly from the tornado debris field.
Porth says there were communications failures May 22 due in great part to equipment being destroyed. One example involves a mobile communication trailer intended to respond to such disasters. It was found two weeks after the tornado three miles away, completely destroyed.
Now, work continues to study communication problems and other issues that arose due to that storm, but also to look at what worked well. Porth says critical lessions could be learned that will improve emergency operations plans for hospitals across the country.