CHICAGO (CBS) — The scene of mass shootings like Las Vegas is chaotic, tense and lives are on the line; a similar environment can be found in hospital emergency rooms inundated by victims.
Chicago has six Level 1 trauma centers. Due to all the violence in the city, doctors and staff regularly treat patients suffering from gunshot wounds and other traumatic injuries, which gives them a surpluse of experience dealing with what they might face in a mass casualty situation.
At Stroger Hospital, for example, treating gunshot victims is nothing new. However, the hospital has never had to deal with a mass casualty event like Sunday’s shooting in Las Vegas.
Still, Dr. Robert Feldman says their staff, as well as medical personnel at other Chicago hospitals, are trained and prepared for such a tragedy.
“Any major incident like that is handled on a regional basis,” Dr. Feldman said, meaning that a coalition of hospitals would handle the influx of patients. “They would coordinate how patients are distributed, making sure no one center is overwhelmed.”
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In order to decide where people are going to go to be treated, Dr. Feldman says they look at where the incident occurred, as well as hospital capacity.
In a mass casualty event, trauma centers will quickly become overwhelmed by patients. Therefore, hospitals that are not designated trauma centers — like Rush University Medical Center — will also play a vital role in the treatment and triaging of patients.
“This is where we would take the patients that initially come in. This is where we would do the initial triaging,” said Dr. Louis Hondros, Rush University Medical Center EMS Medical Director.
Dr. Hondros said Rush could feasibly house about 200 patients, saying, “We would have hospital beds, we’d have stretchers, we’d have wheelchairs — we’d have whatever resources we can.”
As with other mass casualty events, hospital staff in Chicago will evaluate what did and did not work in Las Vegas to see what they can incorporate into the city’s emergency preparedness plans.
At least 59 people were killed and more than 500 others were hurt Sunday at the shooting at the Route 91 Harvest Country Music Festival.