Challenges in handling a civilian mass pediatric disaster during flood relief in a partially inundated armed forces medical facility
Keywords:pediatric, disaster, flood, military, medical aid, mass casualty
Background: Armed forces hospitals are often called upon to provide medical aid to civilians during natural calamities. Though children are often the most vulnerable segment of population in these events, research that addresses their unique needs and the role of armed forces hospitals remains sparse.
Objectives: We examined pediatric morbidity and mortality at a flooded armed forces hospital. Factors that affected outcomes were identified.
Methods: 158 patients were evacuated en masse from a children’s hospital in northern India that was submerged by flood to an adjacent partially inundated armed forces hospital specializing in military medicine and adult trauma. The children were provided case-based clinical care as per existing disaster management protocol. Geoclimatic vulnerability factors, morbidity/mortality, and medical and logistical challenges for future intervention were investigated.
Results: One pediatrician who provided initial triage was joined by two others after 48 hours. A limited load of adult patients permitted more resources for the children, majority (49 percent) of whom were neonates. Intensive care was necessitated for 32 (20.2 percent) cases, with half managed in adult ICU. Overall in-hospital mortality was 5.7 percent. Experienced staff, cross-specialty multitasking, and innovative and noncensorious leadership were identified as assets amidst resources compromised by flooding. Clear delineation of primary caregiver role of pediatrician at outset, pediatric emergency care training, pediatric triage, resource allocation for thermoregulation, oxygen therapy and ventilation, earmarking centers for transfer of cases, and safe transportation to the centers were identified as areas meriting further attention.
Conclusion: Armed forces hospitals in vulnerable geoclimatic zones must address pediatric concerns in disaster management plans.
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