Hospitals prep for potential disasters in advance of political conventions

As the Republicans and Democrats gear up to host their national conventions over the next few weeks, hospitals in both host cities are preparing for any medical emergency that could occur during the proceedings.

In Cleveland, host of the Republican National Convention (RNC), Robert Wyllie, M.D., chief medical operations officer at the Cleveland Clinic, told STAT that the hospital is planning for both the best and the worst, with responses in place for simple concerns like dehydration or exhaustion among delegates to far more dangerous possibilities like violent protests or even terrorist attacks. Major incidents like these, or natural disasters, are often a test of preparedness.

The hospital is having its staff defer vacations, hold off on elective surgeries and stockpile needed equipment so it can operate for 96 hours without the need to resupply. Wyllie told STAT that the recommendation came from members of the Secret Service, who said the hospital would have to act independently for four days.

Potentially violent demonstrations are one of the biggest concerns of local hospitals, according to STAT. In Philadelphia, host of the Democratic National Convention (DNC), Thomas Jefferson University Hospital is on high alert for the possibility, especially in the wake of the shooting at a Dallas protest that left five police officers dead. “I think it’s obvious that the threat level, especially with higher profile events like these, is increased quite a bit in the wake of what’s happened recently,” Roger Band, M.D., an associate professor of emergency medicine, told the publication.

Wyllie told STAT that Cleveland hospitals are expecting there to be unrest during the RNC, and preparing for such an event--and the potential to treat both protesters and police--requires a lot of advanced number-crunching, he said. Hospitals in Cleveland have been working closely together to collaborate on potential strategies, according to an article from IdeaStream.

Band told STAT that even large trauma centers are stretched to the limit when five or six--or more--critically injured patients arrive, and situations like that can quickly overwhelm staffers. The pope’s visit to Philadelphia last year helped set precedents for what works, ABC6 News reported, and road closures and other issues presented by the papal visit are not expected for the DNC.

The deadly Amtrak crash in May 2015 outside of Philadelphia also tested the preparedness of regional hospitals, according to STAT. Temple University Hospital received 54 of the more than 200 casualties of the crash, and had to quickly discharge patients to make room for them. “I don’t want to be in that position again,” Herbert Cushing, M.D., the hospital’s chief medical officer, told STAT.

- here’s the STAT article
- read the IdeaStream story
- visit the ABC6 News coverage