Hospital ready for disaster
NEWHALL – If an earthquake cuts off the Santa Clarita area again, as one did in 1994, Newhall Memorial Hospital is one of 11 medical centers in the county equipped to lead disaster response, county officials said Monday. Henry Mayo Newhall Memorial Hospital has received $1.7 million in grant money to become a disaster-preparedness center. Among the equipment the hospital has bought with that money are two portable surgery tents that staff members can take outside and inflate in minutes to house dozens of patients. Hospital administrators remember when the 1994 Northridge Earthquake severed the freeway connections to Santa Clarita. The area was isolated for days. “This is just our sensitivity to what’s sort of become a part of the nature of the community psyche really … to never have to go through that kind of a geographic isolation again,” said Andy Bogdan, a hospital spokeswoman. In 2004, Newhall Memorial became one of 11 hospitals in the county named disaster preparedness centers. In addition to the inflatable structures, the hospital also has a trailer that could be used after a disaster such as a bioterrorism attack. Fifty people per hour could shower and decontaminate in the trailer. The hospital also used some of the $1.7 million for protective equipment for chemical, biological, radiological and nuclear incidents. And it has used some money to train staff. “We’re prepared to interact with other agencies. That’s what we specialize in,” Bogdan said. City News Service contributed to this report.160Want local news?Sign up for the Localist and stay informed Something went wrong. Please try again.subscribeCongratulations! You’re all set! AD Quality Auto 360p 720p 1080p Top articles1/5READ MORESurfer attacked by shark near Channel Islands calls rescue a ‘Christmas miracle’“This community wants to be able to support itself. And we want to respond to that … desire that this community has to be self-reliant,” she said. A survey conducted from 2002 to 2004 of 45 hospitals across Los Angeles County found that just 16 percent were involved with other agencies in disaster drills. Lead author Dr. Amy Kaji and co-author Dr. Roger Lewis, both of Harbor-UCLA Medical Center, will publish their findings on their survey next month in the Journal of Academic Emergency Medicine. County officials said the situation has improved in some ways since the survey was conducted, but a downsizing in the number of emergency rooms in the county has hurt hospitals’ abilities to handle major disasters. “The primary challenge facing us in Los Angeles County right now with respect to disaster preparedness is the fact that the majority of our hospitals are filled, just because of the need to provide everyday care, and therefore have severely limited surge capacity,” Lewis said.