July 1, 2004

Contact:          Luke Frank, Senior Public Affairs Representative

            505/272-3679

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE

ALBUQUERQUE - Healthcare professionals from as far away as Wisconsin and California received basic and advanced training last month to respond to a disaster or other mass medical emergency.

The three-day course presented by the Center for Disaster Medicine, UNM Department of Emergency Medicine and the Medical College of Georgia used volunteers, including a large cadre from PIMA Medical Institute, to mock a mass-casualty incident. Both Basic and Advanced Disaster Life Support Training courses were conducted.

For the advanced training, volunteers were costumed with artificial wounds, blood and burns as though injured in a mass disaster and healthcare professionals from EMS personnel to emergency room nurses to resident physicians conducted mass triage and patient decontamination exercises.

"In the event of a natural disaster or terrorist incident, we need medical personnel in New Mexico and beyond to be prepared to effectively respond," remarked Michael Richards, M.D., director of the Center for Disaster Medicine and a UNMH emergency physician.

Part of the training included the use of "patient simulators" mannequins engineered and programmed to react physically to various medical conditions and treatments. Another training component required trainees to adorn Personal Protective Equipment and pass volunteer "victims" through a decontamination shower.

All told, more than 80 medical care providers were herded through the New Mexico State Fairgrounds Dairy Barn and confronted with various casualty scenarios including a mock structural explosion/bomb blast, as well as patients presenting with unusual symptoms indicative of a deadly contagion then trained to effectively respond.

Medical facilities in 22 New Mexico counties were represented, as well as the states of Wisconsin and California. "Amid the chaos that follows a mass-casualty incident, these medical care providers will be prepared to quickly organize and administer medical treatment," Dr. Richards added. "Ideally, that translates to effectively treating more people in less time with fewer fatalities."

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