DePaul hospital handles hazmat incident

Emergency Management Alert, September 16, 2008

While hurricanes and tropical storms offer at least some degree of predictability, incidents involving hazardous materials tend to be unforeseen, forcing hospitals to think on their feet.

Staff members at SSM DePaul Health Center in Bridgeton, MO succeeded in this last month when three men who had been contaminated with a toxic chemical at their workplace in East St. Louis arrived at the hospital’s emergency entrance without any warning. The facility caught a lucky break, however, since the men remained in a car outside the emergency department (ED) rather than running inside and contaminating people inside the hospital. A security guard at the emergency entrance contacted medical personnel who began to treat the workers outside the facility.

A half hour after the contaminated men arrived, the entire hospital was closed off, preventing people from entering or leaving, according to a report in the North County Journal. The hospital reopened an hour later, though the ED remained closed until 3 a.m. the next day. During that time, doctors and nurses informed other patients of the situation and incoming ambulances were diverted to other medical facilities.

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