Boston Marathon bombings put hospital disaster planning to the test

Hospitals in Boston put their mass casualty response plans into action following the double explosion near the finish of the Boston Marathon on Monday that left three people dead and more than 100 injured.

Massachusetts General Hospital reported treating 29 patients with injuries ranging from cuts and bruises to amputations, eight of them in critical condition, according to the hospital's latest update at 8:20 p.m. yesterday.

Overall, eight Boston hospitals cared for roughly 144 patients related to the Boston Marathon bombings, including at least 10 children, The Boston Globe reported.

Under their emergency plans, many of the hospitals brought in extra staff or placed their facilities on temporary lock-down, the Globe noted. For example, Beth Israel Deaconess Medical Center, which treated at least 21 victims, called in 100 additional physicians, nurses and other emergency personnel while carrying out police directives to severely restrict access to the hospital.

Meanwhile, heavily armed SWAT-team officers provided heightened security at Boston Medical Center, which treated 23 patients, according to the article.

While ED staff are familiar with the critical injuries they saw Monday, the scale of the incident was unparalleled, according to Reuters.

Key to managing large incidents is communication between hospital departments, as well as obtaining reliable information about the number and severity of patients that will come in, Selim Suner (pictured left), M.D, the director of disaster medicine and emergency preparedness in the Department of Emergency Medicine at Rhode Island Hospital, told FierceHealthcare today in an interview.

"The first thing an emergency department would do is try to gather as much information as possible and disseminate that information to the key players, such as the trauma services, the burn services, the inpatient admitting services, intensive care units," he said.

Suner also noted the ED still has to deal with ongoing regular emergencies. To make room for incoming casualties, hospitals must clear the ED by rapidly discharging or admitting patients without compromising their care--a plan Suner said the Boston hospitals likely implemented in a similar fashion.

For more:
- here's the Reuters article
- read the Globe article
- check out Mass General's updates