Full-scale exercises prepare MDG to help in disasters

  • Published
  • By by Lt. Col. Ronald Johnson
  • 56th Medical Group Systems Flight commander
A massive earthquake in Hawaii leaves thousands
severely wounded, overwhelming all possible resources on
the island. Of the wounded, 300 are placed on military aircraft
and head for Phoenix to receive care. A little known
mission of the 56th Medical Group is to act as the Phoenix
area federal coordinating center for the National Disaster
Medical System. As the 56th MDG commander, Col.
Joseph Chozinski is charged with ensuring the healthcare
system in the Phoenix area can support an influx of patients
from a disaster or contingency occurring somewhere
else in the country or in a theater of operations.
Patients evacuated from a disaster area in need of definitive
medical care arrive via aeromedical evacuation at the
FCC's patient reception area, which in the case of the 56th
MDG is Sky Harbor International Airport in Phoenix.
Patients are off-loaded, triaged and staged at the patient
reporting area pending further medical regulating and
ground transport to a local NDMS hospital. The 56th MDG
has more than 30 memorandums of understanding currently
in place with local hospitals committed to supporting
this mission. They also have plans and support agreements
in place with local, county and state authorities.
The definitive medical care portion of the NDMS begins
upon admission of the patient to the NDMS hospital.
FCCs monitor the status of patients treated at medical
facilities associated with their FCC. In addition, FCCs
may assist in coordinating fiscal information to support
the processing of financial claims reimbursement. FCCs
may also be called upon to help coordinate the discharge
and transportation of patients returning to their point
of origin, or other destinations, as authorized. Patients
requiring continuing care are returned as soon as appropriate
care is available in the area from which they were
evacuated and the patient can be transported safely. The
FCC may be asked by local authorities to assist in arranging
the return of the remains of patients who expire
during their NDMS-sponsored care to the custody of
family or other legally responsible person. Upon release
of patients, any records of patients' care or disposition
of remains that may be held by the FCC are sent to the
Department of Health Services NDMS section.
For this complex mission to work successfully, it is
imperative that full scale exercises be accomplished
on a regular basis. The 56th MDG, in conjunction with
their local NDMS partners, have planned and executed
such an exercise with exceptional results. Participating
organizations include Phoenix fire and police, Maricopa
County Dept. of Emergency Management, American Red
Cross, 161st Air Refueling Wing, Greenway High School
patient volunteers and 24 local hospitals. More than 250
individuals participated in the planning and execution
of this exercise and all agreed that the Valley of the Sun
and the FCC at Luke are ready to meet any situation
that might require the activation of the NDMS.