Duarte hospital trains for nuclear explosion scenario

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Thursday, August 11, 2016
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Workers at the City of Hope, Duarte received training on Thursday so they would know what to do in the event of a nuclear explosion.

DUARTE, Calif. (KABC) -- Workers at the City of Hope in Duarte received training on Thursday so they would know what to do in the event of a nuclear explosion.

The drill, which required radiation detectors to scan patients, was not your typical medical drill. The victims participating in the drill were "exposed" to a radioactive dirty bomb.

"The goal today is how do we treat people that are exposed to radiation after the initial incident? So once they've been triaged and treated, wherever the incident is, they come to the City of Hope to receive further treatment to help them recover and hopefully survive the event," explained Scott MacKay, the drill coordinator.

It is a scenario everyone hopes will never happen. However, in an age of global terrorism, it is all too possible.

City of Hope's expertise in bone marrow transplants makes the hospital unique in dealing with this type of emergency.

"Because of our area of expertise related to oncology care, and our center for transplant is very used to caring for patients who have had significant immune suppression, and that is essentially what these patients will be faced with," said Anne Ireland, the clinical director of ambulatory services at City of Hope.

Getting patients through triage is only half the battle. City of Hope would then have to find rooms inside the hospital to treat everybody. The hospital admits that this could mean displacing other patients.

"We'll find a way to make it work. Clearly, some of the patients who would normally be coming for semi-elective chemo therapy or transplants could be delayed for a period of time, could be postponed for short period of time," said Dr. Margaret O'Donnell, the hospital's director of bone marrow transplants.

In a true emergency, whatever needs to be done will be done, and drills like this will help emergency responders and doctors find the problems they hope they never really have to encounter in real life.

If such a scenario did happen, there would be a response from every level of government - from local to federal - as well as the military.