The groundbreaking practices at the Joseph M. Still Burn Center at Doctors Hospital of Augusta, Ga., and the Grossman Burn Center at West Hills Hospital & Medical Center, West Hills, Calif., are helping both existing and future victims around the world.
A team from the Joseph M. Still Burn Center recently took part in Bolivia’s first-ever emergency disaster drill. Doctors and nurses spent a week there, where they worked with employees of a metal plant as well as members of the Bolivian military. They used makeup to simulate burn wounds on 63 people who portrayed victims, and also lent their expertise to the local medical teams participating.
“It was an eye-opening experience,” said Dr. Richard Cartie, a pediatric intensivist on staff at the Joseph M. Still Burn Center, who participated in the drill. “The city where the drill was held only has four ambulances for the entire residential population. They also only had five ventilators, which meant that we had to make some decisions when it came to which patients we helped first.”
The burn center team spent several days after the drill working with the Bolivian participants, providing a list of recommendations for improving existing conditions at the plant as well as other preparations that could be made. Burn experts were seen as essential, since the facility used for the drill is a metal processing plant and a crisis there would likely involve molten metal.
“Burns would be a primary concern, and they had no experience with them,” Dr. Cartie said. “This trip was enlightening from the standpoint that I think we, as United States citizens, sometimes take for granted all of the amenities that we have in our hospitals and the tools we have at our fingertips every single day,” he said. “In a situation like that, where resources are extremely limited, you have to have rules about not saving the most severely injured because it takes resources away from those with survivable injuries. Their situation, and resources, led to some very practical conversations about how to allocate resources.”