Head of trauma at UF Health discusses disaster training

JACKSONVILLE, Fla. – Orlando Regional Medical Center (ORMC) treated 44 patents in the Pulse Nightclub terror attack. Nine of the dead were taken to that hospital. Six have been discharged and 29 people remain hospitalized at ORMC. 

News4Jax reporter Kumasi Aaron spoke with Dr. Andy Kerwin, the head of trauma at UF Health in Jacksonville. No surgeons from UF Health have been called to help in Orlando, but did offer to treat patients here if ORMC needed. Kerwin said the tragedy in Orlando is a lot for one hospital to handle, and they do drills to prepare.

"I can't imagine. I've never had that many patients at once even on a busy night it’s unthinkable," Kerwin said.

Dealing with more than 100 patients in the trauma unit is hard for Dr. Kerwin to imagine. He said he’s never come close to having to treat so many patients like trauma doctors in Orlando had to Sunday morning.

"Personally me the most I've had at one time has been about six or eight within about 30 minutes coming all from different scenes. That was overwhelming when you're one surgeon with the staff that we have trying to handle that," Kerwin said.

There is usually one trauma surgeon at UF Health overnight.

There are others on standby if needed, but in the case of mass casualties, Dr. Kerwin said the hospital has a disaster plan in place involving physicians, nurses, and administrators, surrounding hospitals, fire and police.

The trauma unit practices that plan every year.

"The last one we did was an airplane crash and so there were many victims that had to be transported from the airport to the hospitals within the region for everyone to kind of practice that type of event, Kerwin said.

But what about space? The UF Health trauma unit has 5 beds, and space for another five or six in the hallway.

"Part of that plan is making space and utilizing other parts of the emergency department other part of the recovery room ensuring we have an ICU that opening up for patients that would need to go to surgery," Kerwin said.

Dr. Kerwin said what happened in Orlando is heartbreaking and eye-opening.

"I really think it forces us to think about the plan and make sure that it is up-to-date and that we have the resources we need," Kerwin said.

Dr. Kerwin said they are meeting this month to review their plan and will take what happened in Orlando into account. Their goal is to at some point talk with the surgeons there about what worked and what didn’t.