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'Dark Knight' shooting: How do hospitals prepare for a disaster?

July 20, 2012|By Nika Soon-Shiong | Los Angeles Times
  • Some victims of the "Dark Knight Rises" shooting were brought to Children's Hospital in Aurora, Colo. A Santa Monica hospital executive says hospitals in the Los Angeles area are ready for all kinds of disasters.
Some victims of the "Dark Knight Rises" shooting were brought… (AP Photo/The Denver Post,…)

After James Holmes allegedly opened fire on an unsuspecting crowd watching a midnight showing of “The Dark Knight Rises” in an Aurora, Colo., movie theater, 12 people were dead and an additional 59 were injured, according to authorities. Many of the victims were rushed to the University of Colorado Hospital in the dark of the night, and others were taken to the nearby Children’s Hospital Colorado, where they received treatment immediately.

Lou Lazatin, president and chief executive of St. John’s Health Center in Santa Monica, spoke with The Times about a hospital’s responsibility to respond to a crisis like this. Lazatin, a leader in the region’s healthcare network, offered assurances that Los Angeles-area hospitals are in a constant state of preparedness.

How does a hospital respond to a situation that has the attention of the entire nation?

When a crisis like this happens we automatically work in our emergency department to respond to the ambulances that are coming in. We work directly with the county health system.

As a hospital, we get our emergency room ready no matter what. We also alert the entire house that we would expect surgical cases, so we bring in our physicians and nurses to be in a state of readiness.

How prepared do hospitals need to be for a rapid influx of emergency room patients?

We are always in a state of readiness, and we have drills on a routine basis for these kinds of scenarios.  So if there was a bioterrorism threat or a shooting, we have done those drills before.

How would a hospital in a smaller city like Aurora respond to a shooting differently from a hospital in a large urban area such as Los Angeles?

We would expect that they would respond in the same way, but the difference is that in Los Angeles -- because we have had so many situations with emergencies and because we are so close to LAX, a high-risk terrorism target  -- I would anticipate that we have a lot more drills.

What can hospitals do to ameliorate this crisis situation for victims and their families?

After the victims and families are taken care of on a physical basis to stabilize them, usually all of the psychotherapy and counseling processes are provided. We provide those services as well as social and therapeutic services for the community.

Can you say anything about emergency care at St. John’s and other hospitals in Los Angeles?

Our level of backup as far as all of the different specialties are extremely responsive. Los Angeles has a system called Reddinet, so that in an emergency situation like this, if it happened in L.A., Reddinet would take control and communicate with our emergency rooms to respond to the victims’ needs.

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