Thu, Nov 27, 2003 - Page 3 News List

Military hospital holds radiation contamination drill

By Brian Hsu  /  STAFF REPORTER

The nation's best military hospital demonstrated its radiation-accident management capabilities for the first time in an radiation leak simulation yesterday.

The drill, organized by the Atomic Energy Council, revolved around the acute contamination of an employee at the Second Nuclear Power Plant in Taipei County's Wanli township.

Tri-Service General Hospital was chosen as the treatment site.

The "contaminated" patient was transported by ambulance from the power plant to the hospital, located in Taipei's Neihu district.

The hospital's radiation-accident management center boasts the best facilities in the country for the treatment of radiation contamination. It has several wards that were specially built for that purpose.

The center began operations in 2001. Last year the Department of Health listed it as a "Class-3" hospital for the treatment of radiation accidents. There are four Class-3 hospitals in the greater Taipei area.

The drill was the center's first chance to demonstrate its capability to handle a severe contamination caused by a radiation leak.

The detection and determination of contamination levels and types was done at a stand-alone structure outside the entrance to the hospital's special wards.

The center used procedures that differed markedly from a demonstration it carried out two years during its inauguration ceremony.

The standard operating procedure at that time was to let the ambulance carrying the contaminated patient drive directly into the entrance to the special wards in order to prevent the contaminated victim from having contact with other patients and a large number of medical staff.

During yesterday's demonstration the triage of contaminated patient outside the center involved a considerable number of medical staff and offered a greater chance the victim might have contact with other patients.

The change might be due to the fact that the entrance to the special wards is now blocked by a temperature checkpoint set up earlier this year because of the SARS epidemic.

A hospital official, who declined to be identified, said the procedures used during the exercise were quite different from the way events would be handled in reality.

The official also pointed out a major flaw in the exercise.

"The transportation of the patient from the accident site to the hospital was too slow," he said.

"It took around an hour to drive the patient from the power plant," he said.

"The best way [to transport such a patient] is by helicopter. We initially planned to use a helicopter to deliver the patient but gave up after some difficulties," the official said, although he declined to specify what those difficulties were.

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