Emergency Response Teams

USAtoday.com reports today on the failures of the emergency response teams after Hurricane Katrina in New Orleans, LA. The article quotes:

Emergency Medical Technician Bill Engler, whose Seattle-based team flew into the region ahead of Katrina, said pre-positioning made little difference. Because the team’s “cache” of medical supplies wasn’t flown in with them and had to be trucked in from Washington state, team members had to share medicine and equipment with other teams. As a result, supplies ran out fast, he said.

Rep. Henry Waxman, D-Calif., who last month released a scathing report on NDMS, said it needs “new leadership and a major overhaul.”

Having experience in public health in the New York City area, I can attest that the Seattle Tech has illuminated the chief concern. When analyzing emergency department turn around times in NYC, one of the biggest issues is having a bed available to move the patient onto. Techs cannot leave without their stretchers and if a patient is on it, they are not going anywhere anytime soon. Additionally, nursing staff is stretched and getting patients admitted and in a bed can be a challenge.

I am sorry Mr. Waxman, but the adminstration is not the most pressing issue. It’s the availability of supplies and better means by which patients can be admitted. It has been suggested that if more stretchers were available, NYC turn around times would improve. I am currently performing a quality improvment project on this issue and will report back with the findings.


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