A PUBLIC hospital in Bahrain has demonstrated its ability to tackle a chemical spill and contain its spread within minutes.
A Code White drill was held at the King Hamad University Hospital (KHUH) in Busaiteen yesterday – featuring an evacuation involving the hospital’s in-house fire safety team and the Civil Defence personnel.
A chemical spill staged in the oncology centre’s day case unit involved the procedure of implementing the code, one of the nine such emergency measures in the hospital.
It featured first response by hospital staff, assessment, evacuation and decontamination of the affected area before declaring it safe from the toxic spillage.
“This is a combination exercise between the KHUH and the Interior Ministry’s Civil Defence directorate in order to test the response time, co-operation in working with toxic materials and the decontamination process,” KHUH fire and safety chief Michael Danielz told the GDN.
“Code White is used in the hospital when there is a chemical spill. It is activated to prevent panic and alarm amongst staff, patients and visitors.
“Code White is not a regular occurrence in hospitals, but we conduct a drill at least twice a year to check our preparedness.
“The main codes among the nine emergency codes in the hospital are Code Red for fire, Code Green for emergency and Code Orange in Obstetrics and Gynaecology emergencies.
“The hospital staff is trained in rapid response to stop things getting out of hand.
“There is a team that responds and makes the initial assessment and if needed the Civil Defence is called.”
The demo was held in the newly-opened oncology centre, in the presence of KHUH Commander Major General Dr Shaikh Salman bin Ateyatallah Al Khalifa and Civil Defence General Director Brigadier Abdulaziz Rashid Al Amer.
Mr Danielz noted that there were various areas within the hospital especially in the oncology centre that are at risk of a chemical spill, including from chemotherapy drugs.
“These drugs, even in small amounts, can be dangerous when they spread through the air conditioning units to other areas.
“In such an event the first responders and the maintenance staff will shut down the air conditioners.
“Cyclotrons (which produce radioisotopes) and gases that are inflammatory and explosive can all prove hazardous.
“We have a storage of 120,000 litres of diesel fuel which can also pose a chemical risk.”
Mr Danielz, the South African resident with the hospital, has over 30 years of experience in the field. His team includes 15 men, citizens and residents, including firemen and safety officers.
“In the seven years that I have been working here we have had no incident of chemical spill nor any major code alerts, except, of course, minor Code Red alerts of fire.
“My team is vigilant and the staff are trained to prevent anything before it occurs.
“The first response usually occurs within two minutes, and the firemen, when called if needed, reach within five minutes. In case there is a need for decontamination, a tent and shower is set up by trained personnel.”
Meanwhile, Civil Defence planning and development directorate head Lieutenant Colonel Mohammed Al Binghadeer highlighted the presence of his specialised ‘hazmat’ team in the drill.
“A chemical spill is not a normal incident like a road accident or fire,” he said. “This needs decontamination which needs professional approach and a trained team (hazmat) will be engaged in such incidents.
“In the demo we evacuated six people and the response time is very important – we reach the scene within three minutes and not more than five minutes.”