By Malathy Iyer
When two explosions ripped through the Civil and LG hospitals in Ahmedabad last month and innocent lives were lost, the belief that healthcare hubs were exempt from terror attacks was broken forever. Security at hospitals became, for the first time, a topic of discussion in government offices and in medical circles.
However, in all the discussion, a few noted that the reason the Ahmedabad Civil Hospital won the day despite the blast was because of a drill held a few months ago.
“If the hospital managed to get back its rhythm, it is because of a drill conducted a few months ago in Ahmedabad hospitals,” said Dr Purvish Parikh, a noted cancer specialist who was attached to the Tata Memorial Hospital until recently.
“They managed thanks to a special disaster preparedness course that was conducted last year by Columbia University and an NGO. The course’s participants were taught how healthcare providers can cope with bomb blasts, ambulances and casualties,” said the doctor.
An e-mail that was forwarded by the Gujarat government’s health officials noted that the drill, carried out in November, involved the response to a bomb blast, ambulances and casualties. The experience of the “drill helped our doctors and staff remain calm and not panic” , noted Dr Haren Joshi and Pratima Tolat of the health department.
The drill was carried out by the Columbia University Medical Center’s Mailman School of Public Health with the support of the NGO AmeriCares.
Elizabeth Frank, of AmeriCares, said, “We received word through one of our drill participants that despite the magnitude of the destruction, there was no panic and the medical staff was well prepared and able to respond well to the high level of activity in the hospital.” AmeriCares and Columbia University launched the training programme in June 2005.
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