Follow-up Friday: Aroostook County Mass Casualties

Published: Nov. 6, 2023 at 2:29 PM EST
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AROOSTOOK COUNTY, Maine (WAGM) - As we saw in this week’s Throwback Thursday, Aroostook County is not immune to mass casualty events. On this week’s Follow Up Friday Rothery Sullivan looks at what local hospitals plan to do if a mass casualty event were to take place.

There are four hospitals that cover the entirety of Aroostook County. Due to their geographical locations and their limited resources, a mass casualty event would put a strain on any of these hospitals’ capabilities. This is why the hospitals each have their own thorough and practiced plan in case of a mass casualty event.

Traci Peabody, of Houlton Regional Hospital, explains that they are prepared in case of an emergent situation. “I think that we’re as prepared as we can be,” Peabody says. “We have those plans in place, and you can’t have everything lined up perfectly, it will never happen. You just need to know what and where your resources are, and do the best that you can.”

Alain Bois, from Northern Maine Medical Center, says that their staff are trained thoroughly for their plan. “We practice it on a regular basis, on an annual basis, through either scenarios or sometimes through some real event that may take place,” Bois says.

Cary Medical Center said the same. “We meet on a regular basis, we discuss the policies, the protocols, and we host drills to see if what we outlined, is it going to work?” says Kris Doody, the CEO of Cary.

If a mass casualty event were to happen, the hospitals would reach out across the state for additional resources, including transportation, supplies, and medical staff. “Where we are three hours away from, you know, a tertiary center or a trauma center like Eastern Maine Medical Center, we would need to be a little more creative,” explains John Thyng, the Medical Director of the Emergency Department at Northern Light AR Gould.

Because of limited resources, hospitals emphasize the importance of collaborating with other hospitals in Aroostook County. “We would be reaching out to those other hospitals as soon as we learned of a mass casualty event,” Thyng explains.

Doody explains that Cary wouldn’t just reach out to the other hospitals but to all other emergency services resources available in the County. “When we talk about a coordinated effort between the four hospitals, it even extends beyond that,” Doody explains. “We coordinate with state police, with local police, with ambulances, we even included the Maine Veteran’s Home and the VA when we’ve done drills.”

Bois says that the hospitals already have an established relationship, which would make it easier to collaborate should a mass casualty event occur. “We’ve already had those relationships and we’re not really seeing each other as competitors,” Bois explains. “During our normal day-to-day operations we’re working together.”

Doody says that it would be very likely that medical and emergency services staff would know the victims personally due to how close our community is in northern Maine. “Hospitals can prepare for the event but to prepare for everything associated with that event is pretty enormous . . . these are friends, neighbors, relatives, that’s the hardest piece,” Doody expresses.

However, Peabody emphasizes that the close community would allow for effective teamwork. “That’s the benefit in smaller facilities,” Peabody says, “is that you do know one another, whether it’s community members, whether it’s staff, whether it’s the other hospitals so that in itself is huge.”

Should a mass casualty event occur, the hospitals have their own individual plans for how to deal with the crisis, and will pool resources from across Aroostook County to ensure maximum safety for those involved.