Disaster Trauma: How Prepared Is Your Hospital?

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HUNTSVILLE, Ala. (WHNT) -- Boston-area medical centers were flooded with more than 100 injured people following Monday's bombing at the marathon.

How prepared is your local medical center for those type of emergency influx scenarios?

Dr. Rony Najjar is Chief of Trauma at Huntsville Hospital.  He says the facility stays one step ahead when it comes to critical training, practice and available resources.

Huntsville Hospital is one of three Level One trauma centers in the state.  Staff members know all too well when disaster strikes, emotion has to be put on the back burner.

"When you're in here and you've got these mass casualty folks coming in, you're going to work," said Dr. Najjar.

Dr. Najjar says in addition to multiple disaster drills each year, Huntsville Hospital has a global plan for mass trauma with specific subplans for each individual department.

"For example, for the emergency room, they've got their subplan, trauma services has their subplan with all five trauma surgeons being mobilized," said Dr. Najjar.

Najjar says following the Lee High School bus crash of 2006, emergency personnel at the hospital played a hands-on role in the re-design of the trauma suite to maximize efficiency and access.  He says his team's resources have been tested, but never overwhelmed.

"You know, as far as staff being available, that's never really been an issue because as soon as a disaster of that nature occurs, everyone wants to come in and chip in and help," said Dr. Najjar.

Trauma personnel actually represent a relatively small subset of medical professionals across the United States.  We spoke with Dr. Najjar about the connectivity and empathy among his counterparts nationwide.

"We do connect because we understand what it takes and how much of a load it is on your shoulders; emotionally, at work and how intense it is," he said.

Dr. Najjar says suppressing the emotion associated with human suffering isn't easy.

"It's training and it's experience and it's doing it over time. It's work. You have to do your job, you've got to save these people, you're going to save as many as you can with as much as you have," he said.

Dr. Najjar says emotion can creep up after the proverbial dust has settled after a disaster.  He says his team is always sensitive to the emotional needs and wellbeing of the trauma staff as well.

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