Is Honolulu prepared to handle a mass-casualty emergency?


Hawaii hospitals and other agencies will have to all pitch in together to deal with any disaster like the one in Las Vegas.

So how prepared are we?

Honolulu’s Emergency Medical Services Division and emergency room doctors offered some eye-opening revelations Tuesday.

They admit we are already at a disadvantage being on separate islands, and our hospitals are nearly full most of the time, so a surge in patients would be overwhelming.

If there are mass casualties, EMS will be among the first responders. There are 20 ambulances here on Oahu, but with help from other agencies, EMS says up to 60 ambulances can help transport the patients.

“Something like Las Vegas, we would be overwhelmed, so we would have to ask for some help from the military, federal fire, and the private ambulance AMR,” said EMS chief Dean Nakano.

EMS would then contact all the hospitals and determine who goes where. Queen’s Medical Center is a level-two trauma center, which is the highest in the state. There is no level-one trauma center here.

“How many can you bring in here that you will be able to attend to?” KHON2 asked.

“This is part of what we practice with EMS, and so the first thing they would do is ask each hospital that could receive these critically or injured patients, anybody affected by the disaster, how many can you take,” said Dr. Howie Klemmer, chief of emergency medicine at Queen’s.

There are 24 treatment rooms in Queen’s emergency department, priority will be given to those who are the most critically wounded.

“So we take the sickest of the sick and the worst injured, and other places will help out as they can depending on the geography and the location and their capabilities,” said Klemmer.

Other hospitals, including the military, will be asked to help. Tripler Army Medical Center is also a level-two trauma center.

“Even the ones that came here, we’d have to make some hard decisions. If you have that many critically ill patients, the ones that are impending death patients, you would just do comfort measures and then the ones that are salvageable, you rush them to the operating room,” said Dr. Michael Hayashi, Queen’s medical trauma director.

Another agency that can help is the Hawaii Association for Healthcare, which provides resources such as equipment and medical supplies during disasters.

We’ve also learned that Queen’s is working on expanding its emergency rooms, both in town and the one in Ewa, but that won’t happen for another two to three years.

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