Sunday, February 25, 2007

A moment to reflect...

Anyone following the news in the UK would have heard about the tragic train crash in Cumbria last night..
I heard about it first on a News Flash.. Cumbria is a large County located to the north of Lancashire, with a number of large hospitals in it.. So my first thoughts were that there is a small possibility that our Department, geographically located in the centre of Lancashire, might be involved.. Then the news came that patients are being airlifted, and I thought: Our Department is definitely going to be involved.. We have a helipad just outside our Department, while most of the Emergency Departments in Cumbria and northern Lancashire don't..


I was not on-call.. However, I have, after all, written our Hospital's Major Incident Plan, and I knew it inside out.. So, I rang the Department, and found out that we have been put on alert to receive patients. Resigned to the fact that my plans for a quiet evening have evaporated, I sped away in my car, green beacon flashing, on my way to Hospital.. My colleague who was on-call, now the Consultant In-Charge, was already in, and has already started organising the Department in preparation for the expected influx of casualties.. Some of my other colleagues arrived shortly afterwords, and the whole Hospital was springing into action, as the Major Incident Plan stipulated... Each of us was given certain tasks, on instructions from the Consultant In-Charge.. exactly as the Major Incident Plan stipulated...

The rest of the Hospital was also bustling with activity.. staff called in, volunteers directed to where they can be deployed, patients being moved, beds prepared, and theatres opened and staffed... exactly as the Major Incident Plan stipulated...

Casualties started arriving, and each was met by a team.. Each was assessed and treated according to the severity of their injuries.. exactly as the Major Incident Plan stipulated...

At about 01:30 am on Saturday, we were instructed to 'Stand Down', as the Ambulance Service has evacuated the last casualty from the scene.. and you could hear a collective sigh of relief.. We have come through.. as a Team.. as a Department.. as a Hospital.. A job well done.. but no-one could have been more relieved than yours truly!... This was the first time the Plan was 'tested', and, on the whole, it seems to have come out well..

Some of the casualties were admitted for observation, some for further treatment.. Others were discharged.. We spent the following two hours or so bringing the Department back into some sort of an order, and most of us were able to go home by 03:30.. I had the misfortune of being on-call on Saturday, so I had to be back at 09:00!...

I was quite prepared for another slog of many hours of hard work, dealing with the usual workload of the sick and injured.. What I was not expecting was to be hounded all day by the Press for comments, interviews, statements, and information... By the end of the evening, I had done four (or was it five?..) newspaper interviews, three telephone interviews with major news outlets (including SkyNews), two TV interviews (including ITN), and had my picture taken by half a dozen photographers.. to what purpose?.. God only knows!!.. I am absolutely certain that my contributions in this particular area were totally insignificant...

Before leaving for home tonight, I sat for 20 minutes in my office reviewing in my mind the events of the past 24 hours.. An immense sense of relief and satisfaction swept over me.. Relief that the condition of all our casualties has stabilised, although some are still critical.. Satisfaction with the way 'Team Lancashire' has come through..

(Of course, I exaggerate.. the girl in the pink uniform is not on our Team.. she does not have the right uniform!..)

There were some glitches, but no Major Incident response is complete without them!.. and there was nothing that could not be easily ironed out...

All that was tempered by the deep sense of sadness for the death of one casualty and the serious injuries suffered by so many... An elderly lady died at the scene, and several others were seriously injured.. some are being treated in our Hospital (including the train driver, and the daughter and son-in-law of the lady who died), while others are being cared for in Lancaster..


Nevertheless, one can only be grateful that things did not turn out to be as bad as we first feared.. the majority of passengers (90%) walked out unscathed, at least physically.. and that is blessing that we must be grateful for...


2 comments:

abufares said...

There's no greater satisfaction than a job well done especially when it involves the saving of lives.
You should be extremely proud of what you have chosen to do in life.

Syrian in London said...

Great work doc, it is always hard to test a Major incident plan except when something really happen. Well done and hope that the rest of the injured will be ok. Keep us updated on how they are.