A framework for physician activity during disasters and surge events


  • Jane L. Griffiths, RN, BAN, MHP
  • Aurora Estipona, BSN
  • James A. Waterson, RN, BA (Hons), MMed Ed




reverse triage, surge capacity, responding teams, physician role, Middle East


Objectives: Delineation of the problem of physician role during disaster activations both for disaster responders and for general physicians in a Middle East state facility.
Setting: The hospital described has 500 medicalsurgical beds, 59 intensive care unit beds, eight operating rooms (ORs), and 60 emergency room (ER) beds. Its ER sees 150,000 presentations per year and between 11 and 26 multitrauma cases per day. Most casualties are the result of industrial accidents (50.5 percent) and road traffic accidents (34 percent). It is the principle trauma center for Dubai, UAE. The hospital is also the designated primary regional responder for medical, chemical, and biological events. Its disaster plan has been activated 10 times in the past 3 years and it is consistently over its bed capacity.
Interventions: A review of the activity of physicians during disaster activations revealed problems of role identification, conflict, and lack of training. Interventions included training nonacute teams in reverse triaging and responder teams in coordinated emergency care. Both actions were fostered and controlled by a Disaster Control Centre and its Committee.
Results: Clear identification of medical leadership in disaster situations, introduction of a process of reverse triage to meet surge based on an ethical framework, and improvement of flow through the ER and OR.
Conclusions: Reverse triage can be made to work in the Middle East despite its lack of primary healthcare infrastructure. Lessons from the restructuring of responder teams may be applicable to the deployment to prehospital environments of hospital teams, and further development of audit tools is required to measure improvement in these areas.

Author Biographies

Jane L. Griffiths, RN, BAN, MHP

Adjunct Associate Professor, University of Western Sydney, Sydney, Australia; Director of Nursing and Chairperson of Disaster Committee, Rashid Hospital, Dubai, United Arab Emirates.

Aurora Estipona, BSN

Disaster Project Officer, Rashid Hospital, Dubai, United Arab Emirates.

James A. Waterson, RN, BA (Hons), MMed Ed

Nurse Specialist, King Abd al-Aziz Medical City, Riyadh, Saudi Arabia.


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How to Cite

Griffiths, RN, BAN, MHP, J. L., A. Estipona, BSN, and J. A. Waterson, RN, BA (Hons), MMed Ed. “A Framework for Physician Activity During Disasters and Surge Events”. American Journal of Disaster Medicine, vol. 6, no. 1, Jan. 2011, pp. 39-46, doi:10.5055/ajdm.2011.0043.

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