Pandemic exercise set for this week

November 6, 2017 GMT

Hospitals in eight northwestern Georgia counties will be practicing on Wednesday morning their emergency response to a pandemic — an infectious disease rapidly spreading across the region. Most of the exercise won’t be visible to the public, said Kenna Baker of Floyd Medical Center, the emergency preparedness coordinator for the state’s Region C Healthcare and Safety Preparedness Coalition.

The region covers Floyd, Bartow, Chattooga, Polk, Haralson, Carroll, Heard and Coweta counties.

In most cases, the only signs of the activity would be an increase in ambulances and patients, Baker said Sunday.

A number of nursing homes, community health, public health and first responders also are signed up to participate.

“It will be as if there were mass casualties,” Baker said. “We’ll be looking at things like how we would sort — triage — the patients for treatment and how many they can handle.”

Cartersville Medical Center’s exercise will include the Bartow County sheriff’s office, emergency management agency, EMS and fire department, according to hospital spokeswoman Ginger Tyra.

It’s slated to run from 7 a.m. to noon.

A portion of the drill will start in an area of the Lowe’s parking lot, across Market Place Boulevard from the facility. Bartow EMS spokesman Brad Cothran said that might garner some attention, but 95 percent of the activity would take place on the hospital campus.

“They will be testing their procedures. They want to test and stress the staff, to see how they would react,” Cothran said.

Hospitals nationwide are required by the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid to conduct an annual emergency preparedness exercise. The scenario this week is based on a pandemic flu.

Georgia has 14 Healthcare Preparedness Coalitions, formed to help bridge gaps in counties’ emergency responses. The idea is that a single community’s plans may not be sufficient during and after a disaster, and a regional approach would create a more prepared and resilient healthcare system.

Region C hospitals have been meeting together since 2007. Members of the voluntary coalition also include mental and behavioral health providers, pharmacists, home health services, dialysis centers and hospices.