The new ER at Covenant Medical Center is taking the lead on bioterror defense in Lubbock. Covenant's new state-of-the-art Emergency Room is one of the best equipped hospitals in the nation to handle chemical and biological contamination.
Three years ago, chemical and biological warfare were virtually unheard of. Today, they are at the forefront of discussions on homeland defense, and are an increasing part of defense plans, including Lubbock's brand-new terror ready ER.
"So this is the outside entrance. You bring your patient in and get their clothes off," says Covenant ER Nurse Manager Annette Atkins while giving us a tour of the new ER decontamination room.
Inside Covenant Medical Center's brand new ER, a decontamination room sits prominently to the left of the main entrance. And its prominence is no accident. It's a direct result of the growing threat of bioterrorism in the United States.
"9-11 brought a lot to our attention, but we're still learning all the time," says ER Trauma Director Catherine McMahon.
The new decon room has its own outside entrance and another entrance to the rest of the ER. "We bring them through the outside door, into the dirty area, then get 'em cleaned and then we'll take 'em out," says Atkins.
The decon room can be used for chemical terrorist attacks or for other things. For example, farmers or mill workers who've been exposed to chemicals or pesticides. "This is heated(water), you just turn it on and spray 'em down," says Atkins.
The decon room is the most noticeable part of the terror ready facility, but it's also equipped with gas masks, gloves, gowns and more. And Covenant and a coalition of regional hospitals and facilities are now taking the lead in bio defense readiness and education. Including seminars to educate health officials and local authorities about what to do in the event of an attack.
"A lot of it is that we all need to talk the same language. Are we protected and can we protect patients. We believe we can right now," says McMahon.
On a related note, next month the City of Lubbock will host a terror attack exercise. It's a drill aimed at preparing the community for an outbreak or disaster. Lubbock has obtained bio terror preparedness grants for the drill. The City of Lubbock is quickly establishing itself as a leader in terror defense. U.S. Attorney General John Ashcroft is expected to attend next month's exercise.