Hospitals test response to bioterrorism

Published 5:00 am Wednesday, July 14, 2004

Parents and children attending a soccer tournament Mondaydiscovered an added ingredient in their ice cream that touched offa regional bioterrorism emergency.

Fortunately, it was just a drill sponsored by the stateDepartment of Health to test the readiness and procedures ofregional health department branches and local hospitals.

“It was basically to test the health department response andseveral hospitals got involved in it,” said Clifford Galey,Homeland Security director for Lincoln County and Brookhaven.

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King’s Daughters Medical Center and Lawrence County Hospitalboth participated in the drill.

“Our scenarios dealt with botulism, a type of food poisoningthat can also be an aerosol agent. Ours was a food agent,” saidStephanie Langston, emergency room manager at Lawrence CountyHospital.

Joanna Sproles, public relations officer at King’s DaughtersMedical Center, said their scenario used similar parameters.

It was the first time the bioterrorism procedures at LawrenceCounty Hospital had been tested outside of internal trial runs,Langston said. Staff members knew and followed the procedures.

“We thought we did real well,” Langston said. “It all wentsmoothly. When we needed to get in touch with the various agencies,we did with no problems. It seemed to work well. That was the mainthing we were pleased with.”

Other emergency services were notified of the drill, but werenot invited to participate, Galey said. He said notification wasgiven to ease concerns that may have been caused by increased radiotraffic and to provide information to answer any questions posed byconcerned citizens.

“It was all done by phone, so we didn’t have people travelingthe highways,” he said. “It wasn’t really the type of drill theycould participate in.”