Dr. Mike Karch, Director, reports on a Disaster Preparedness and Mass Casualty course given by SOMAS (Society of Military Orthopaedic Surgeons) at the 2012 American Academy of Orthopaedic Surgeons Annual Meeting in San Francisco.
The Academy-sponsored, Military-directed Mass Casualty/Disaster Preparedness Class was first rate, as expected. In its infancy stage, a lot of the course was simply shared experiences from staff and students alike from Ground Zero, Katrina, and Haiti…..and how to database, organize and train civilian specialty surgeons to work in austere environments.
Cadaver labs were also excellent focussing on blast injuries, amputations, ex fix placement, vascular shunts, and rotational flap coverage procedures.
Interestingly, there was a large amount of conceptual crossover to Mission Surgery with regards to limited supply systems and resources counterplayed against overwhelming need.
I have been in contact with some members of the military this week as well as manufacturers of DRASH shelters and HDT shelters. Our goal is to create a self-contained surgical unit tent compound that can be literally dropped anywhere in the world for 1-3 weeks of surgical humanitarian aid. Most importantly, this unit would be free of the political and resource restraints seen in many developing nations’ hospital systems.
This unit would not only suffice in standard mission trips like the one that we just completed in Chiapas, Mexico, but also be ready for a rapid deployment to both domestic and foreign natural and manmade disaster areas. In other words, as a self-contained, non-profit, non-governmental organization, we can be quicker and more nimble than the larger machine that exists with The Federal DMAT Disaster Medical Action Teams…..it took DMAT 72 hours to deploy to Ground Zero and almost a week for Katrina. Further, DMAT is not specifically a surgical strike team and is severely understaffed with regards to orthopaedic trauma specialists.
Our NGO will need to be registered with not only our Academy but also the American College of Surgeons, Academy of Emergency Room Physicians, as well as the Federal Government, such that we are recognized as an independent, but legitimate agency. In this way, we can benefit from both Federal supply as well as military security once those systems are in place.
Short term goals include raising capital and soliciting in-kind donations for tents, generators, a dental autoclave, etc., as well as to cover travel and logistical expenses with the goal of Nepal November 2012 as a small-scale trial run.