Volunteers evacuate patients after small electrical fire at field hospital
By Jennifer Browning
A small electrical fire broke out last night in the pediatric tent after the Project Medishare field hospital had been pounded by a massive lightning storm throughout the day.
Although shaken, all of the volunteers and patients are safe.
Volunteer surgeon Dr. Harvey Austin said around 1 a.m. volunteers awoke to an alert that there was a fire in the pediatric ward and patients needed to be evacuated. Volunteers worked throughout the night safely moving patients through the mud. Dr. Austin said within less than two hours a triage unit was set up in the parking lot, so the evacuated patients could continue receiving care.
Dr. Austin said it was amazing how all of the volunteers, worked smoothly through the situation. Many of them, like Dr. Austin, had just begun their deployment after arriving late Saturday night.
“It was one of the most magnificent things I have ever seen,” Dr. Austin said. “Every person here selected themselves to dance with the chaos of it all. Everyone came through the whole thing.”
It is suspected that lightening hit a power box and caused an electrical fire in the pediatric tent which spread to the adult ward tent next door.
According to Dr. Austin, patients have been moved back into the pediatric and adult tents, and the hospital has been reconfigured. Volunteer pharmacist PJ Pitts said the local team is currently working to fix the wiring in the pediatric tent and the OR.
Chief Operations Officer Thomas Koulouris has control of the situation and is working with University of Miami’s Ron Bogue and Project Medishare’s local support team to create a plan.
“Although a major tragedy was averted,” Project Medishare President Dr. Barth Green said, “the harsh realities of our mission to serve were brought up a notch today.”