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Health Officials Practice With Portable Hospital

Health Officials Practice With Portable Hospital

Erie Times-News

June 17, 2009

The next time a large-scale disaster strikes, emergency responders will be able to treat hundreds of injured people at the scene by emptying a couple of tow-behind trailers.

Local responders on Tuesday got their first look at a portable hospital system that the Pennsylvania Department of Health has placed in Crawford County for use throughout the region.

The system was set up and showed off during a two-hour training program at the Crawford County Fairgrounds in West Mead Township.

“We’re pleased to have been able to obtain the hospital,” Crawford County Emergency Services Director Allen Clark said as dozens of participants unloaded and set up the equipment. “It’s an asset to have in a large medical emergency.”

The system is one of eight the Department of Health recently purchased, at $460,000 each, with money from the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, said Donna Murray, hospital preparedness program manager for the state Department of Health.

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Each has been placed at a strategic location around the state, close to major highways, so they can be deployed where needed within two hours, Murray said.

The systems were developed by EMS Innovations Inc., of Pasadena, Md., to serve as almost full-scale hospitals at the scenes of major disasters, such as tornadoes. The 50-bed facilities include hospital pods, beds and a host of medical and site-management equipment, including generators.

They are designed to handle 350 overnight patients and 1,000 emergency room visits, and come with enough supplies to be self-sustaining for a week, said Joseph G. Ferko III, D.O., an emergency-room physician who founded EMS Innovations Inc. and developed the systems.

The systems are packed into two trailers, and six people can set them up in one hour, Ferko said.

EMMCO West, the emergency medical services council in northwestern Pennsylvania, will be in charge of this region’s system in collaboration with the Northwestern Pennsylvania Emergency Response Group.

EMMCO West Executive Director William McClincy said its EMS strike team, made up of six area ambulance services, will oversee the system’s use.

McClincy noted that the system could be used in relieving the workload on area hospitals during large incidents by treating some patients at the scene, allowing the hospitals to focus on the more seriously injured.

“We can coordinate up to 100 patients at a time,” he said.

© YellowBrix 2009


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