In the aftermath of the explosions at the Boston Marathon yesterday, the emergency medical community is receiving praise for how it responded to the disaster. Almost as soon as the two explosions went off, emergency response teams set up a central communication center to find out which hospitals had room for the injured. Patients were matched with one of the city’s six trauma centers based on how much care they required. That’s according to the chair of emergency medicine at Baystate Medical Center in Springfield — Dr. Niels Rathlev. Rathlev says emergency response in the western part of the state is just as organized. And although Baystate is the only trauma center in the region, he says it’s prepared to handle a disaster this big.
“Receiving 140 injured in the span of a couple of hours would challenge any medical center. But we have conducted drills in terms of preparing for these types of things and the first thing that would happen is we would completely empty out our emergency department.”
Rathlev says the unit has ninety-four beds but is prepared to use every last square foot of waiting room space to make room for more. He says since the department expanded last year, Baystate’s emergency staff includes 30 physicians, 10 trauma surgeons and multiple vascular and general surgeons who participate in at least two emergency drills a year — some staged and others real.
“In the past year and half we had the tornado and the explosion at the club downtown and I think these really made it possible for us to practice what we already know and what we have drilled. I think practice always makes perfect.”
And Rathlev says medical professionals’ disaster management skills will improve as younger doctors enter medicine. He says starting this year, many medical schools including Tufts where he teaches, will have an emergency training requirement.