September 26, 2020

Synergy Medical Director organises disaster simulation after Cayman Islands experience


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Synergy Emergency Medicine Resident Peri Penman, right, calls for help with a critical patient

As fake blood spurted from the leg of a paramedic practice dummy in the cafeteria of what was Moore Elementary School, doctors rushed to apply a makeshift tourniquet to the limb and check their plastic patient for vital signs.

This is one of a couple dozen scenarios doctors in Synergy Medical Educational Alliance’s emergency medical residency program dealt with during a disaster simulation held Thursday morning at the school, 700 Court Street.

The scenario replicated the results of a tornado hitting a hospital, similar to the situation some hospitals faced last summer in Joplin, Mo., when tornadoes tore through the region. Debris was scattered throughout the cafeteria and the residents had to treat their mock patients under the assumption that they had limited access to electricity and medical supplies.

Synergy Medical is a regional medical education coordinator that provides specialized medical training to young physicians. Director of the emergency medicine residency program Mary Jo Wagner said it is important to have practice runs such as this so the doctors are prepared when these emergency situations do arise.

“These practices are great,” Wagner said. “What they’ve shown with all these events like Hurricane Katrina is that you need to practice for these things in advance so you can be ready when they actually happen.”

Although there is no way to predict the number tornadoes the Great Lakes Bay Region will see throughout the course of the entire season, National Weather Service meteorologist Dave Kook said southeast Michigan already has experienced four tornadoes this season, one short of the seasonal average.

One of the four tornadoes happened in nearby Coleman and Kook said he would not be surprised if the region exceeded its yearly average because the peak of the season generally comes in June.

Synergy Medical Assistant Medical Director Tom Charlton organised Thursday’s event and said exercises like this allow doctors to use skills they don’t necessarily get to use while working in a normal hospital setting but are crucial in disaster situations.

Charlton said one of the key points of the drill was practicing triage, which is the practice of evaluating the severity of patients’ conditions and the priority of their treatment — something he said his very important when dealing with a disaster of this magnitude.

Charlton experienced a real life scenario while in medical school on Grand Cayman Island.

“I survived hurricane Ivan in medical school and it was pretty similar to this (simulation),” he said. “You just have to try to help as many people as possible.”

Practice dummies and volunteers from the Saginaw County Sheriff’s Department and paramedics with Mobile Medical Response Inc., or MMR, were assigned different conditions and were made up accordingly with fake blood and other props. Symptoms varied from mild headaches to lost limbs, one participant even had a large wooden stick through his leg.

With a torn shirt and imitation blood running out of his right ear, Brandon Thompson played a 23-year-old respiratory technician who suffered a head contusion and ultimately had to be intubated.

A 19-year-old Birch Run resident, Thompson is a MMR emergency medical technician and paramedic student. He joined his classmates in volunteering for the simulation and said his EMT training helped him know what to look for in emergency situations.

“We deal with these kinds of things a lot out in the field — operating without a power source or with limited supplies,” Thompson said. “(The Synergy Medical Education Alliance) helps us out a lot so it’s nice to return the favor.”

Another paramedic student, Jody Foster, said that it’s good training for the physicians.

“I like that the doctors get trained. This gives everyone more of an idea on what to expect instead of being completely without a plan,” Foster said.

“You have to plan for the worst and hope for the best,” said the 34-year-old.

Covenant Healthcare Safety Officer Kay Lapp said it’s a great opportunity for the doctors and paramedic students.

“When Synergy asked (Covenant) to help with this, we said we would be more than happy to help. It’s gone really well today and was really well-organized,” Lapp said.


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