How hospitals prepared for disaster following LA Fitness shooting
August 6, 2009 4:00 AM
Dr. Aurelio Rodriguez
By David Templeton Pittsburgh Post-Gazette
Moments after the shooting rampage ended Tuesday in Collier, the Allegheny County command center alerted St. Clair Hospital officials to prepare for as many as 15 casualties.
St. Clair Hospital officials hold regular disaster drills, using actors as patients so doctors, nurses and hospital staff can prepare to give patients timely care. But Tuesday night was the real thing, and St. Clair was the closest hospital to LA Fitness, where the massive attack occurred.
"The hospital administration was notified and a paging system was used to alert a wide range of people to get extra staff," said Dr. Kristen Seaman, assistant chairwoman of the St. Clair Emergency Department.
In addition to four emergency physicians on regular duty in the emergency department, general, orthopedic and vascular surgeons along with anesthetists were on standby.
Although St. Clair officials initially had no idea how many victims were coming, they were prepared for the worst. As many as 30 physicians, many still at the hospital that evening, called to offer assistance or headed to the emergency room to offer a hand.
Hospital administration also called in behavioral health officials to help distressed family members and friends of victims.
Once patients arrived, the hospital used a zone approach, with each zone staffed with a doctor and two nurses, and a float nurse available to help any zone that needed assistance. Once a patient's condition is stabilized, surgeons could begin the repair work.
It would be one long night for St. Clair Hospital, which received three patients, although one died shortly after arrival. UPMC Mercy received five, and Allegheny General Hospital received two.
At St. Clair, a second gunshot victim who had a shoulder injury was released Tuesday night and the other, shot in the knee, underwent surgery yesterday and was discharged.
Dr. Aurelio Rodriguez, director of trauma at Allegheny General Hospital's Shock Trauma Center, said the hospital could have handled more patients if needed.