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KEM hospital’s disaster management system praised by The Lancet

April 2, 2007

When seven bombs went off in Mumbai local trains on 11th of July 2006 killing more than 200 people and injuring more than 700, the city’s disaster management system was pressed into service. In the aftermath of the blasts there was a fair amount of criticism about the way the crises was handled, and also about delays in reaching the injured to hospitals. In fact there were articles which compared the Mumbai blasts to the London bomb blasts and the comparisions were ofcourse – unfavourable. The time taken to rush the injured to the hospitals was too long… an hour at times…that was what was said.

The truth was that Mumbai coped very well. The local trains were working the very next morning (the blasts took place in the evening), and normal services were resumed in less than 24 hours as engineers worked throughout the night to resume services.

But this part is well known.

What isn’t so well known is that our hospitals coped well too. None other than The Lancet a prestigious British Medical Journal, has come up with statistics in a recent issue, to show that Mumbai did well. It is all praise for KEM hospital in particular. The Lancet has actually compared Mumbai’s KEM Hospital, favourably with the Royal London Hospital.

This shows that the muncipal hospital KEM performed on par with international norms. Over a thousand people donated blood. The Lancet article mentions that it was impressive that it took just 30 mins for the first patient to reach the hospital and that the hospital completed 16 surgical procedures (out of 18) within 18 hours of the disaster. This was a better record than the Royal London Hospital. But ofcourse the delay in London, the article goes on to say could well be because the London blasts took place underground.

The KEM hospital authorites say they managed to cope because they had a well planned disaster management system in place.This plan had been “reviewed and reworked” after the 26th July 2005 floods. Hospital authorities also give credit to the “public goodwill” which comes to the fore in such disasters. Whether it was the 2003 blasts, the Mumbai floods or the train blasts, everytime they were plenty of people lining up to donate blood. It wasn’t just KEM which got such an overhelming response. Other hospitals like JJ, Sion and Hinduja too had a long line of donors wanting to give blood.

True, mobile phones jammed, and there was confusion, and some ambulances were redirected to other hospitals due to over crowding (no coordinating agency), but inspite of it all, we came through. And it is estimated that this was done with barely fifty ambulances (stuffed to capacity while The London Ambulance Service has nearly 200 additional ambulances.

Overall, the reaction to the disaster in KEM hospital was “swift, efficient and sensitive” as this article in the Journal of Post Graduate Medicine (JMGM) also states:

A routine working day for the surgery registrar on call; attending to the emergency admissions. Suddenly, one patient, with his arm blown away, lands in the Emergency Surgical Ward (ESW). Even before he is examined, five others arrive with somewhat similar presentations and then the flow continues. Each one has come from a different location Matunga…Mahim….Khar- all western suburbs of the city. Within a span of 45 minutes, around 50 patients entered the Casualty department. Twenty one dead bodies were brought in. Of the 76 patients who came in with injuries related to the bomb blast, 54 were admitted to the hospital with severe injuries.

One Comment leave one →
  1. April 2, 2007 10:06 am

    I can only begin to imagine how problematic it might have been to transport so many emergency patients with such dire injuries to hospitals in a city so highly populated as Mumbai, and in one where there must be major traffic jams during all parts of the day. It is heartening to hear your report of how well the medical establishments responded to this emergency, and also how many people came forward to donate many units of blood necessary for so many transfusions.
    I do wonder how well our hospitals here would cope with such an instant emergency.

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