St. Elizabeth Hospital, a 48-bed facility in the nearby town of Gonzales had received seven patients so far, all of whom are in good condition with minor burns and bruises, said John Hirsch, the hospital's director of marketing and public relations.
“We do expect more patients, but we don't know how many or what their condition will be,” Hirsch said, adding that the hospital was prepared with a triage setup and decontamination area.
The region's largest hospital, 659-bed Our Lady of the Lake Regional Medical Center, Baton Rouge, received 11 patients, nine in fair condition and two in critical condition, according to Terrie Sterling, the hospital's chief operating officer. And like the other hospitals, Our Lady of the Lake anticipates receiving more victims, she added.
The hospital activated its emergency preparedness protocols early this morning after officials determined the explosion met the standards for such an event, Sterling said.
“We set up our command center with a public information officer, a safety officer and our chief medical officer to make sure were activating all systems to be prepared for the patients we might receive,” she said. The process has gone smoothly so far, Sterling added.
“Because we are in the chemical corridor,” she said, referring the region's large number of chemical plants, “we've had to balance the needs of our patients with supporting the community, many of whom have spouses and friends who work in the plants.”
Lester Kenyon, a public information officer for Ascension Parish, said several local fire departments and hazardous-materials teams responded to the explosion, along with parish emergency preparedness personnel and police officers from Gonzales, located just a few miles away.
Four nearby chemical plants—including Innophos and Honeywell, both located in Geismar—are on alert and workers have orders to stay inside, Kenyon said.
Healthcare providers' emergency-preparedness systems were put to the test in April after a massive explosion at a West, Texas-based fertilizer plant that killed 15 people and injured more than 150. After that deadly blast, local officials credited drills and other protocols for the quick response by Hillcrest Baptist Medical Center and Providence Health Center, both located in nearby Waco.
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