Health care professionals in Australia are among the best in the world. So how do we prepare them to respond to a mass casualty terrorism incident that would overwhelm hospitals, when we’ve never experienced one on Australian soil?
Australia has so far avoided the catastrophic terrorism attacks that have struck the northern hemisphere in recent decades, but with the impact of disasters increasing internationally, Australian nurses are likely to find themselves providing care following a mass-casualty event at some stage in their careers.
With hospital emergency departments across the country already under strain from day-to-day patient loads, most would be unable to cope with any more than a small number of seriously injured patients.
Dr Karen Hammad, senior lecturer in the College of Nursing and Health Sciences and Associate Director of the Torrens Resilience Institute, says more work needs to be done for Australia’s hospitals to develop better disaster preparedness.
“More importance needs to be placed on… running realistic and regular disaster exercises as a means to train health professionals for the reality of responding to these events”. She said.
“Australia is not immune to the terror threat”.
The Torrens Resilience Institute (TRI) was established to address disaster preparedness and to assist both state and federal governments, the emergency services organisations in Australia to enhance and their leadership and management capabilities during times of disaster or disruptive challenge.
In 2013 the World Health Organisation designated the Torrens Resilience Institute as a Collaborating Centre on Health at Mass Gatherings. Being highly visible events with the potential for serious health issues affecting a large section of the population, mass gatherings present a risk for acute communicable and non-communicable disease as well as injuries. Even without disaster or accident affecting a mass gathering, an estimated 1-2% of a crowd will access some type of first aid, and 1% of those will require transport to hospital via an ambulance.
The TRI’s Executive Education Program allows leaders and managers to apply rigorous academic thought to practical problems in their sector, and helps them acquire the necessary knowledge to analyse threats and to build resilient organisations and workplace systems
Under the leadership of TRI research and expertise, Flinders University offers postgraduate courses in Disaster Health Care, which provide health care students, whatever their professional background, with the opportunity to acquire a body of theoretical and practical knowledge and skills in disaster health care and to apply these in a range of disaster response situations both in Australia and abroad.
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