Volunteers sought
for training

Health officials say they need hundreds of volunteers to act as patients in an Oahu and Maui bioterrorism exercise next week that will be among the most comprehensive in the nation.

It is the state's first full-scale exercise, said Dr. Lisa Hendrickson, exercise clinic manager with the state Health Department's Disease and Outbreak Control Division.

'Patients' needed

To volunteer for bioterrorism exercises:

» Oahu: People of all ages and ethnic backgrounds, able and disabled and speaking any language, may call Cassy Shinabarger at the Red Cross, 739-8109, to volunteer for the Honolulu clinic. Orientation will begin at 8 a.m. with role cards and rules handed out.

» Maui: The Red Cross, 244-0051, needs 400 volunteers for its exercise from 8 a.m. to noon Thursday at the community college. It has about 100 so far. Volunteers will meet at Baldwin High School for orientation and go from there to the college.

About 1,000 "actor patients" are needed between 10 a.m. and 1 p.m. Wednesday at the Neal Blaisdell Center so officials can determine if 300 to 350 patients can be processed in an hour, Hendrickson said.

"We desperately need more," said Maria Lutz, of the American Red Cross, which is handling recruitment. So far, volunteers total a little more than 300, she said.

Hawaii is one of 10 states receiving training materials from the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention's Strategic National Pharmaceutical Stockpile, Hendrickson said.

"We will practice transporting it, doing an inventory, distribute it in parcels to the clinic in the Blaisdell Exhibition Hall and to Maui, where there will be a medication clinic at Maui Community College organized by the Maui District Health office," she said.

Most of Hawaii's hospitals will participate in the exercise with three programs -- one running all week -- to test their ability to respond to a disaster, identify a patient walking into an emergency room with a simulated infectious disease and activate hospital command posts statewide.

"It's an exercise pretty much unlike any in the country," said Toby Clairmont, Healthcare Association of Hawaii emergency program manager. "No hospital has done those three things all in one week."

"This is probably one of the most comprehensive exercises in the country," said Bart Aronoff, Health Department Bioterrorism Preparedness Branch chief, who has been planning details with civil defense and other security officials.

"We call it an exercise, but this is a real learning experience for everyone involved in each of the activities," he said.

Laboratory and public information exercises will be held along with the medical and hospital programs, he said.

Testing procedures will focus on a particular infectious disease decided by a steering committee with a mainland firm selected by the Office of Domestic Preparedness to assist states with bioterrorism preparedness.

Hospitals will have to respond to actor-patients showing up in emergency rooms with the chosen disease, Hendrickson said. "As the week progresses, we will have more 'casualties.'"

Clairmont said hospital leaders will receive a brief scenario describing a terrorism act involving an infectious disease, and they will facilitate staff discussions about the impact and what to do about it.

The ability to identify a "first patient" who shows up sick because of an infectious-disease outbreak or act of terrorism is the second hospital test, Clairmont said. "If we identify the patient early and do the right thing, we can mitigate the effects of a major outbreak."

An emergency operating exercise also will be staged between 9 a.m. and noon Thursday involving simultaneous activation of hospital command posts throughout the state, Clairmont said.

Hawaii State Department of Health



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