Hospital developing disaster plan

By Thomas Garcia, PNT Staff Writer

Staff at Roosevelt General Hospital are working to prepare a county and community disaster plan that will be the model for the state.

The Portales-based hospital was chosen in March by the New Mexico Department of Health to develop a Medical Surge Plan that will be used as blueprint for all rural communities.

“They are using us as a pilot program to develop the policy and procedures,” said Tammy Phillips, RGH Emergency and Risk Management coordinator.

Phillips said that one of the reasons that RGH was chosen to develop the plan is because of previous performance when tested by the Department of Health.

“Last year the Department of Health had us run a flu pandemic scenario,” Phillips said. “They were impressed (with) how we incorporated the city and county to resolve the situation.”

Other scenarios covered in such a plan could include industrial accidents and tornadoes. The goal is to develop a base program that can be adapted for the specific needs of other rural communities, Phillips said.

This plan would be implemented in the event of a disaster in areas such as Roswell and Tucumcari, which have a centrally located hospital that serves the entire county, Phillips said.

“This is obviously something that is needed,” said Keith Wattenbarger, City of Portales and Roosevelt County emergency management director.

In a disaster, a small community’s hospital resources could be maxed out, Wattenbarger said. The plan is designed to assist the communities extend their emergency services until help or additional resources could be acquired.

Larger cities will base a blueprint on a plan from Las Cruces, Phillips said.

Steps involved in the program include setting up an temporary triage center and emergency shelter.

Currently the policy and guidelines for the program are being developed and later an inventory of local resources will be identified, Phillips said.

“We have been establishing working relations and coordinating with city, county and local business for this plan,” Phillips said “The utilization of personnel and equipment is vital to the success of this program.”

Portales City Manager Debi Lee said it is imperative to have a well thought-out plan to ensure the safety of Roosevelt County residents.

“The city has worked hard to implement programs to alert and keep our residents safe,” Lee said.

Phillips said the goal is to have a printed copy of the plan ready by the end of the year.