Last updated: August 22. 2013 10:56PM - 198 Views

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LIMA - Patients on stretchers, helicopters in the air, nurses hurrying to treat people.

"Are you coherent? What day is it?" nurses quizzed, over and over again.

A training exercise on dealing with a pandemic flu outbreak was held Friday at OSU-Lima's Cook Hall, with health care workers from Allen, Auglaize, Mercer, Putnam and Van Wert counties testing themselves on dealing with a widespread disaster.

"The public needs to see how important it is to practice what would happen in a pandemic flu scenario," said Rebecca Jenkins, director of marketing at Lima Memorial Health System. "This simulation is just a preparation for the worst-case scenario."

Casualty transport systems, hospitals, health departments, Medical Reserve Corps and American Red Cross volunteers from each county were on site. Twenty five volunteers served as patients, and the staffers performed registration, triage, admission, medical treatment and discharge.

Numerous rows of beds were set up along the back wall of the gymnasium, and volunteers were moved from the stretchers to the patient care beds as seen necessary.

Dale Palmer, administrator at the Mercer County-Celina City Health Department, said the five-county simulation exercises were 13 months in the planning.

"This is a very labor-intensive project," Palmer said. "Setting up the necessary equipment, bringing in physicians and nurses - it's all a lot of work."

Cook Hall would be used in an actual emergency like this, Jenkins said. Staff at the emergency center would administer antibiotics and fluids, holding a patient for 24 hours or less. If patients are still ill after that time period, they would be sent to area hospitals.

"In the case of pandemic flu," Jenkins said, "the hospital is the worse place to be. That's the last step. You don't want to end up at the hospital since this whole thing is a widespread virus."

The hospitals also held exercises this week to plan for an outbreak.

"We have to plan these things out," Jenkins said. "At what point do our local hospitals trigger aid from Allen County, from the region, from the state? At what point do we stop admitting people; when do we start putting beds in the hallways? What do we do when half our staff is also infected? These are the things we need to prepare for."

Rehearsing for a health disaster is key to become more familiar with procedure and attempt to remain calm in the actual situation.

"Exercises like this are important," Jenkins said, "because we want the community to be prepared. You can practice all you want, but if there was an outbreak, mass chaos would ensue. In such a situation, emotions would be running high. We're doing our best to be ready for that."

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