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Preparing for the worst

Doctors and nurses train in the pediatric unit of a 140 bed mobile hospital near Dimondale, Michigan
(photo by Steve Carmody/Michigan Radio)
Doctors and nurses train in the pediatric unit of a 140 bed mobile hospital near Dimondale, Michigan

State health officials are putting a 140 bed emergency field hospital to the test today just south of Lansing.      They're preparing for the kind of medical needs that may follow a catastrophic natural or man-made disaster.  

“Never had a seizure before?"

Doctors and nurses scramble to try to understand why a child suffered a seizure during an earthquake that rattled southwest Michigan.      They are real doctors and nurses, but their patient is actually a dummy, and the earthquake is just a scenario. 

The disaster drill is not only testing the training of the mobile hospital's medical team, but also the mini-tent city as well. 

Dr. Jackie Scott is the medical director of the office of Public Health Preparedness.  She says when Hurricane Katrina hit New Orleans, it exposed problems in the nation's ability to respond to major disasters. 

"You saw in Katrina hospitals were devastated. They didn’t have power. They were flooded. And they were trying to find places to put all those people. Plus those people they were pulling out of all those places that flooded.”

The mobile field hospital can provide a wide range of care to treat and stabilize people in need of medical care.   Dr. Jenny Atas is the Department of Community Health's southwest Michigan medical director. 

“It is limited in the type of care we can do. We can do initial stabilization of pretty critically injured patients. But those we want to transfer out. We wouldn’t want to keep them more than 24 hours."

The mobile hospital can also be split in two, to provide medical care to a wider area. 


Steve Carmody has been a reporter for Michigan Public since 2005. Steve previously worked at public radio and television stations in Florida, Oklahoma and Kentucky, and also has extensive experience in commercial broadcasting.