Local News

Duke Sending Nearly 50 Medical Workers To Gulf Coast

Posted September 5, 2005

— A team of nearly 50 doctors, nurses and other staff from Duke Medicine will be traveling to the Gulf Coast region to help staff a field hospital.

Monday afternoon, 21 doctors, nurses, and other clinicians from Duke Medicine will leave for Meridian, Miss., to help staff a U.S. government field hospital being established at Key Air Field, a National Guard post.

"I think it's wonderful." said Dr. Mark Sebastian, a Duke surgeon, who is going to Meridian. "I can't imagine anything better to do right now."

A second group of 23 Duke clinicians plans to fly to the Meridian field hospital Tuesday at the request of The National Institutes of Health. The Duke workers are part of a 100-member medical team, drawn from hospitals and EMS agencies across North Carolina, that was dispatched to the disaster area Friday night.

Members of the group say they have no idea what kind of care the patients will need. They are armed with basic medical supplies and drugs.

" I think the issue is going to be patients who have been without care for a long period of time," said Dr. Becky Schroeder a Duke anesthesiologist. "I don't think any of us have any idea what we're going to be dealing with."

"We're going to assess the situation," said Chi Dang, a Duke pharmacist, "and I know that there's going to be a greater need for help and hopefully we'll be able to continue to get more people to volunteer to come down."

The current plan calls for the Meridian field hospital to have 250 beds, and to be able to treat patients with a variety of medical problems in adults and children. The Duke physicians being deployed are specialists in emergency medicine, internal medicine, pediatrics, surgery, cardiology, obstetrics and gynecology. The hospital is being set up in an aircraft hangar at the facility.

This is the second medical relief effort in which Duke has been asked to participate. At 3 a.m. Monday, a team of five nurses and technicians from Duke University Hospital and Durham Regional Hospital arrived in Bay St. Louis, Miss., near Gulfport, as part of a larger contingent that brought a 100-bed mobile hospital to the stricken community.

As most of the country watches the victims in the media helplessly, these people say they finally get to actually make a difference.

"I think initially everyone wants to help and they're not quite sure how to do that," said Frank DeMarco, a Duke nurse. "Luckily Duke has given us the opportunity to be able to do that in a very personal, hands-on way."


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