Health Team

Response to Las Vegas shooting offers lesson to local trauma centers

Posted October 2

— Local hospitals are watching the tragedy in Las Vegas with special concern.

As with other deadly attacks on crowds in the U.S. and overseas, trauma centers would step up their training and planning if a similar ever occurred locally.

The Triangle is home to three level-one trauma centers- WakeMed, Duke University Hospital and UNC Hospitals. In normal times, the hospitals are competitive with each other, but in times of tragedy, they form a tight bond of cooperation.

In the past several years, there have been a variety of violent attacks leaving dozens of people dead or critically injured.

As Las Vegas hospitals try to save the lives of hundreds of shooting victims, WakeMed’s executive director of emergency services, Dr. Barb Bisset, said hospital responses to those tragedies offer lessons for trauma centers everywhere.

“It’s very sad just to see the number of casualties that there are, which is challenging for any trauma center,” Bisset said.

Bisset said the number of the incoming wounded is larger than any single hospital could hope to handle. She said a robust communication system is in place, which ties in all hospitals and EMS services for a coordinated response.

“All hospitals in North Carolina have a common agreement for mutual aid. We also have, through our disaster planning, some teams which are available that can be shared between areas,” she said.

Bisset said WakeMed regularly plans emergency response training and drills to practice for a major disaster of any kind, including infectious disease outbreaks, like Ebola, or a chemical attack. However, mass shootings with military-style weapons pose a special set of problems for critical care responders.

“We have the good fortune that a number of our trauma surgeons have served in the military and so they are very well trained with war wounds, because this is what we’re really talking about when you have many of these weapons,” she said.

Bisset said that, on any given day, WakeMed could already be at capacity. In such an event, plans are in place for moving non-critical care patients to other facilities.

She also said the event in Las Vegas shows the need for the average person to know first aid and how to stop someone from bleeding, which could save a person’s life as they wait for emergency medical help.


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