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Thursday, 30 October 2014

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Hospital staff suit up for decontamination exercise

HOSPITAL staff showed they were prepared for any emergency during a lesson in dealing with decontamination.

A team of nurses, doctors and clerical workers from Furness General Hospital took part in an exercise to test the hospital’s Chemical, Biological, Radiological, Nuclear and Explosive (CBRNE) site plans yesterday.

Acute hospitals up and down the country must ensure they have plans in place to deal with an accident where patients are contaminated with chemicals or a terrorist attack.

Work has been carried out in Barrow to train 65 members of staff to be part of the hospital’s decontamination team. Practice runs are taking place every month while they are being trained up.

The exercise saw the team go through a demonstration of how it would activate plans. Representatives from Cumbria Fire and Rescue Service, who would be drafted in to assist during a CBRNE incident, also joined them.

Various stations were set up outside the emergency department to show where patients who could have been contaminated would be taken after they turn up at the accident and emergency department.

An area called the ‘dirty side’, where staff assigned to the role would meet contaminated patients, was cordoned off and a decontamination tent, where patients would be cleaned, was also set up.

Staff also donned special hazardous material suits, which have built in gloves, boots and air supply, which they would be expected to wear in the event of this type of emergency.

Sally Young, resiliance and emergency planning manager for the University Hospitals of Morecambe Bay NHS Foundation Trust, which runs FGH, said: “This is a training exercise for when patients self-present to hospital who have been contaminated.

“It could be someone at work who has been exposed to chemicals, or even someone doing DIY at home that has gone wrong and they have been contaminated. There is also a lot of industry in this area, although many businesses do have decontamination plans in place for major accidents. We’d assess each case and work with ambulance control.

“You never know when this might happen and it is a possibility, so it is important to practice. Every time we practice it, we get different things coming out of it. The wind has given us some issues today.

“Over the last 12 months we have been training 65 people on site to be able to respond when it does occur.”

Zoe Jackson, a clinical support worker on Ward Nine who wore a HAZMAT suit during the exercise, said: “There was a notice put around the wards and I volunteered to be part of the decontamination team and it was something I was really interested in.

“In the suit, you are quite restricted, but it is workable. Anything could happen so it is good to be prepared for when it does. I feel well-briefed.”

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