SALT LAKE CITY — A mass casualty training exercise at the Salt Lake VA Hospital on Thursday prepared staff for one of the worst possible scenarios.
Taking care of US veterans is the number one job for VA hospitals. But since they are military physicians, technicians and other emergency responders, they also train to step up in the event of a civilian tragedy.
The training scenario involved a massive earthquake hitting Alaska, which would create mass casualties that would overwhelm the states medical infrastructure.
Patients in various degrees of distress would then be sent to other states, including Utah, that have a VA hospital with staff members that are ready and able to help.
“A lot of people don’t see the VA as playing with our communities in emergency management because they don’t realize that that is one of our core missions," said Dr. Angela Williams, Interim Medical Director at the Salt Lake VA Hospital. "And you’re right, this is another way to educate them that the VA, yes we do take care of veterans but we are available to take care of civilians and our community partners when we need to.”
In an event like this one, VA officials would be the first and main point of contact to figure out the number of injuries, how badly people are hurt, where hospital beds are available and getting patients where they need to go as quickly as possible.
Dr. Williams says they train every year for different scenarios like this so they can be proactive instead of reactive when the real thing happens.