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UTHSC faculty members say medical community is ready
(09-18-01)

Hospitals in this city are ready to receive casualties in the event of further acts of war, said Charles R. Bauer, M.D., who chairs the Bexar County Medical Society's Emergency Preparedness Committee and serves as professor of emergency medicine and surgery at the UT Health Science Center.

"We'll be ready," he said. "The National Disaster Medical System works very well. We are prepared, with as much notice as possible, to receive casualties."

On Sunday, Afghanistan's Taliban rulers were given three days to turn over Saudi fugitive Osama bin Laden. The United States has identified bin Laden as the prime suspect in the Sept. 11 attacks on the World Trade Center and the Pentagon.

New York- and Washington-area centers were able to handle the patient load from the attacks. "We compiled daily bed status reports from all hospitals of the city just in case," Dr. Bauer said, adding that a significant number of beds were listed as available.

Dr. Bauer and other leaders gathered on the day of the tragedies to discuss San Antonio's response. Officials represented the South Texas Veterans Health Care System, the University Health System, Wilford Hall Medical Center, Brooke Army Medical Center, the Texas Department of Health Regional Office, the San Antonio Metropolitan Health District, the Greater San Antonio Hospital Council and the Southwest Texas Regional Advisory Council for Trauma.

The National Emergency Medical System is set up for civilian and wartime emergencies. The week of the terrorist attacks, Dr. Bauer and other leaders were planning to hold a major exercise focusing on preparedness in the event of bioterrorism or a major hurricane.

During disasters and wars, an emergency operations center is activated. Some patients who would normally go to the three major trauma centers, University Hospital, Wilford Hall and Brooke Army, are diverted to the city's other hospitals.

San Antonio paramedics and Emergency Medical Services (EMS) dispatchers are at a "heightened state of awareness," said Donald J. Gordon, M.D., Ph.D., EMS medical director for San Antonio and professor and chair of emergency medical technology at the Health Science Center. He chairs the Greater San Antonio Hospital Emergency and Disaster Management Committee.

"EMS continues to work closely with the military bases and is cooperating with their heightened state of readiness and patient care limitations," Dr. Gordon said. "We have a 24-hour direct line to the Metropolitan Health Department. The Hospital Council has taken steps to sponsor the introduction and implementation of the Hospital Emergency Incident Command System at our area hospitals. We are working closely with Kay Peck, CEO of the Bexar County Medical Society, to keep area physicians aware and updated on possible terrorist activities."

Contact: Will Sansom or Aileen Salinas, (210) 567-2570