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December 20, 2017

How Washington hospitals responded to Monday's deadly train derailment

Daily Briefing

    Hospitals in Washington state have treated dozens of individuals who were injured in an Amtrak derailment near Olympia on Monday.

    Incident details

    About 7:30 a.m. Monday, a train, Amtrak 501, traveling from Seattle to Portland ran off the tracks and onto the Interstate 5 Highway as the train came out of a sharp curve onto an overpass. All but one of the train's 14 cars fell off of the track. According to Amtrak, the train was carrying 80 passengers and six crew members, Reuters reports.

    From fires to hurricanes: How can hospitals prepare for disasters?

    The incident occurred along the newly rebuilt Point Defiance Bypass in DuPont. The train, which was the first to transport passengers along the new bypass, was travelling 80 mph in a 30-mph zone, according to the National Transportation Safety Board (NTSB). However, Bella Dihn-Zarr, a spokesperson for NTSB, said it was too early to determine whether speed played a role in the accident.

    According to Washington State Trooper Brooke Bova, five automobiles on the highway and two semitrailer trucks were struck in the derailment. In total, three people died in the incident, Bova said.

    Washington Gov. Jay Inslee (D) declared a state of emergency Monday, saying the accident caused "significant structural damage to the overpass, railway, and highway infrastructure."

    Separately, NTSB said it would review the train's speed as part of an investigation into the incident that the organization launched on Monday. Amtrak, which said it will cooperate with the investigation, noted that technology designed to limit a train's speed automatically—known as "positive train control"—was not in operation on Train 501 when the derailment occurred.

    Amtrak in a statement said it is "deeply saddened by the loss of life and injuries due to the derailment."

    A doctor responds

    Nathan Selden, a pediatric neurosurgeon at Oregon Health and Sciences Doernbecher Children's Hospital, was one of several travelers who witnessed the accident and immediately began offering aid to injured passengers. According to KATU, Selden, along with his son, provided assistance for two hours.

    "It was something truly massive and catastrophic," Selden said. "I've only seen things like this on television before I happened upon it this morning. ... I was seeing patients who were conscious, with severe lacerations, skull fractures, back and neck injuries, pretty bad pelvic fractures and leg and arm fractures."

    Hospitals treat injured passengers

    According to a spokesperson for Bova, nearly 100 people involved in the incident were taken to hospitals for care—including 10 individuals with serious injuries.

    Madigan Army Medical Center in Tacoma said it received at least 19 patients. By Tuesday morning, 11 patients were still at the hospital, nine of whom were in stable but serious condition. One patient was transferred to Harborview Medical Center.

    In addition to the transferred patient, who is in satisfactory condition, Harborview as of Tuesday morning had three patients, two of whom were in serious condition and one of whom was in satisfactory condition, KOMO News reports. 

    Ten people were sent to Providence St. Peter Hospital in Olympia, according to spokesperson Chris Thomas. Thomas said while none of the patients had life-threatening injuries, three of the 10 patients needed surgery for low-extremity injuries. According to KOMO News, the hospital has discharged five patients; of the six who remained hospitalized, all were in fair or better health.

    Other hospitals and health systems that took in patients included St. Joseph Medical Center in Tacoma, which received 15 patients; MultiCare Health System, which in a tweet Tuesday said six of the patients the system received remain hospitalized, all of whom were in serious condition; St. Claire Hospital; and St. Anthony Hospital.

    Blood donations sought

    Meanwhile, Bloodworks Northwest on Monday put out an urgent call for blood donations.

    James AuBuchon—president and CEO of Providence St. Peter Hospital, which gets blood donations from Bloodworks—said supplies for certain blood types are down to critical levels. Typically, there is a four-day supply, but certain blood types are down to just one- or two-day stocks, AuBuchon said. O negative and AB plasma and platelets are in especially high demand, though all donations are beneficial.

    AuBuchon said, "We need to replenish our supplies to meet the needs of injured people today and in the days ahead, as well as to meet normal need." He added, "We're urging donors who have not donated recently to schedule an appointment as soon as they can at a donor center or mobile drive."

    Information can be found at (Lazo/Elinson, Wall Street Journal, 12/19; Rege, Becker's Hospital Review, 12/19; Seattle Times, 12/18; The Olympian, 12/18; KATU, 12/18; James, Reuters, 12/18; KOMO News, 12/19).

    Members ask: How can our hospital prepare for disasters?

    Hospitals must be prepared for myriad disasters that can stress health care systems to the breaking point and disrupt delivery of vital health care services.

    Advisory Board has compiled step-by-step procedures for various threats your facility may encounter—though we hope you'll never need to use them.

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