At 10:01 a.m. on Monday, June 27th, Mercy Medical Center began receiving patients who had been exposed to chlorine gas at the Tyson chicken processing plant in Springdale. Mercy co-workers ran the 59 patients through the hospital’s decontamination unit to remove any traces of the gas. The patients were then assessed by medical personnel and either began receiving treatment or undergoing observation.
Of the 59 patients seen at Mercy, 31 patients were treated and released on Monday. The other 28 patients were hospitalized overnight and discharged Tuesday. The remaining six patients were expected to go home on Wednesday.
Mercy was able to call on additional personnel from outside the emergency department to deal with the large volume of patients during the disaster. In addition to the clinical staff already working in the emergency department, co-workers from other areas were pulled in to help care for patients. Seven physicians and 16 nurses not on duty at the hospital at the time also came in to offer assistance.
“I’m very proud of how all our co-workers responded to this disaster,” said Michele Stewart, Mercy Medical Center COO. “We were able to respond to the needs of a lot of patients in a short period of time.”
Less than three weeks ago, Mercy took part in a regional disaster drill that focused specifically on the hospital’s decontamination plan. This consisted of setting up the decontamination unit outside of the emergency department and running mock patients through it. The drill gave the 15 Mercy employees who are part of the hospital’s decontamination team valuable experience they were able to use during Monday’s incident.
“This is why the disaster drills are so important,” says Chuck Trudo, hospital preparedness coordinator. “The drill gave our staff a great refresher course on the equipment and procedures necessary to decontaminate patients quickly and efficiently. We were prepared to handle the large number of patients that came our way yesterday.”