Carle prepares for possible bioterrorism

By Christine Won

Carle Foundation Hospital received a bioterrorism grant of $502,000 from the Illinois Department of Public Health, provided by the U.S. Health Resources and Services Administration.

It is Carle’s fourth year receiving the grant. The grants came about after the Sept. 11 terrorist attacks, said Anita Guffey, POD disaster coordinator for Carle Hospital.

Carle received the grant because of its designation as one of the 11 POD hospitals by the Illinois Department of Public Health. Being a POD hospital declares Carle the lead hospital in the emergency medical services region 6 in case of a disaster.

“9/11 was obviously an eye-opener,” Guffey said. “The first responders, community and government were not truly prepared. The federal government said the country needed to be more prepared and issued clear requirements on what hospitals have to do to better prepare the community.”

Any place is a possible target for a terrorist attack, said Guffey. Things that make Champaign-Urbana susceptible is a major university with major concentrations in informational technology. If targeted, the city, state and possibly even the government can be greatly wounded.

“When it comes to disasters, other hospitals are supposed to report to us,” Guffey said. “As the POD hospital of region 6, Carle is the home base for resources for other hospitals.”

As the POD disaster coordinator, Guffey helps Carle and all hospitals in region 6 develop their disaster plans, exercise those plans through drills, and collaborate with other hospitals to share resources.

“Anita has done a tremendous job maximizing dollars and tracking down to each penny,” said Lynne Barnes, vice president of clinical operations. “At state level, the way she manages the grant is really exemplary.”

With the grant being in the form of reimbursements, Carle has up to approximately half a million dollars to spend on preparation in case of a bioterrorist attack and the federal government would reimburse them.

The federal grant required Carle to meet certain specifications to prepare for possible bioterrorist attacks.

Carle needs to be able to set up a temporary hospital – a surge facility in a nontraditional place that could house patients if Carle was ever surged with patients. The practice drill setting up a surge facility in August was very successful, Guffey said.

In three to four hours, they were able to set up 500 beds in Memorial Stadium, Barnes said.

In case of a true emergency, Carle would be prepared to set up a surge facility anywhere within region 6, said Allison McLaughlin, specialist in Carle public relations. Carle has an understanding with the University of Illinois to set up a surge facility anywhere on campus as well.

Carle is required to purchase extra personal protective equipment, such as splash-resistant chemical suits, masks, gloves and boots, for employees so they can take care of patients.

The grant also requires Carle to purchase pharmaceuticals, extra trauma supplies and stockpiles of medicine to be packed into trailers so it can be moved to any location in region 6. This year, Carle also bought more antibiotics in case anthrax or small pox was ever used as a bioterrorist weapon, Guffey said.

The hospital routinely performs practice drills as well. The whole idea of practice is to learn what works and what doesn’t, Barnes said.

Three weeks after Carle practiced the surge hospital drill in the beginning of August, they used it in response to Hurricane Katrina.

“Carle’s goal is to help in any way we are able to, and we’re proud to say we lent a good hand,” Guffey said.

The grant also places an emphasis on educating the hospital staff and community.

“Education is key for not just health care workers, but for everyone about basic disease prevention,” said Lynne Reagan, director of infection control at Carle.

Under the basis of the grant, Carle is well-equipped to perform decontaminations.

“We’re very well-prepared,” said Bob Mann, who leads a decontamination team of 25 volunteers at Carle. “We have a pretty high level of training and an extremely large amount of good equipment that enable us to handle most types of incidents.”

Although Carle always had disaster plans in place, Guffey said she feels Carle is far better prepared than they were before Sept. 11.

“The goal of a terrorist attack is not always to kill,” Guffey said. “It might be to wreak havoc and affect economy. Or instill fear. I feel like the state of Illinois is one of the leaders in the nation for disaster-prevention.”