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Published on October 14, 2015

Innovative Emergency Team Model for National Hospitals

SRHS Hospital Emergency Response Team Celebrates 10 Years

Spartanburg Regional Healthcare System’s (SRHS) Hospital Emergency Response Team (HERT) was the first hospital-based emergency response team of its kind in the nation.

HERT has served as a model for organizations across the nation, including the University of Los Angeles in California and Baptist Hospital of Miami in Florida.

HERT’s efforts all began with Hurricane Katrina, one of America’s 10 deadliest hurricanes in history. Katrina killed more than 1,500 people and resulted in the evacuation of more than 1.5 million people in the New Orleans and surrounding areas 10 years ago.

The deadly hurricane was the catalyst for the creation of Spartanburg Regional Healthcare System’s (SRHS) Hospital Emergency Response Team (HERT).

Six SRHS staff members traveled to Columbia, S.C., by request of the National Disaster Medical System, to help support the medical disaster brought on by Katrina.

“In a matter of hours, our role was changed. When this disaster initially occurred, our role was to help move patients to other hospitals,” said SRHS Safety Officer Jeff Straub. “The timetable and the scope changed, and we became part of the state’s response team.”

Straub and a team of five others — including paramedics, a doctor and two nurses — were asked to coordinate efforts to care for New Orleans patients who were being flown into the Columbia area.

“Off the fly, we came up with a process of how to rotate patients off the aircraft and send them to regional hospitals,” Straub said. “We received 408 patients between Sept. 4 and Sept. 10, 2005.”

After Katrina, these six SRHS team members decided to form HERT.

“On the way back from Columbia, we started discussing what if something like this happened in our backyard,” Straub said. “That is what prompted us to develop our response team, with a concentration on managing our internal hospital emergency responses.”

Since 2005, the team has grown from six to 52 members in ten years. HERT is now composed of SRHS associates and community agencies, all prepared to respond to all medical disasters. They also respond to emergencies within the healthcare system, and provide support to emergency response efforts in Spartanburg and surrounding regions.

Most recently, HERT aided with the 2015 flooding in Columbia, S.C., by sending a water filtration device during a water shortage in the area.

HERT provides emergency training across the state to help the National Disaster Medical System and DHEC Public Health Preparedness. They deployed the mobile medical facility in 2010 to monitor the safety of hundreds of volunteers for ABC’s “Extreme Home Makeover” television show in South Carolina. HERT was also active in SRHS’s response in 2011 when a children’s train ride derailed in Cleveland Park in Spartanburg, injuring 28 children and killing one 6-year-old boy.

HERT continually has a community presence at Spartanburg events such as the Spring Fling and Stump Jump, by providing first aid and education.

In 2014, at the height of the Ebola virus epidemic in West Africa, HERT established a decontamination and highly infectious disease-specific team that trained in the donning and removal of personal protective equipment.

During a challenging flu season resulting in a high number of patients in Spartanburg Medical Center’s Emergency Center in 2015, HERT deployed a Mobile Medical Unit, a 50-bed medical station with running water and electricity to be prepared for a potential heavy patient load.

As HERT celebrates 10 years of being prepared for any emergency, their goal is to continue to be a key partner and to support other emergency organizations in the area.

“We are working with Union county to help provide for their unique emergency needs,” Straub said. “HERT is going to continue to make a resilient SRHS team.”

About Spartanburg Regional Healthcare System

Spartanburg Regional Healthcare System (SRHS) offers a full spectrum of services through four hospitals: Spartanburg Medical Center, Pelham Medical Center, Spartanburg Hospital for Restorative Care and Union Medical Center. SRHS also includes Ellen Sagar Nursing Center, 113-bed long-term care, skilled nursing facility that offers nursing care and rehabilitation services. SRHS provides unparalleled oncological care through the Gibbs Cancer Center & Research Institute. The multidisciplinary Medical Group of the Carolinas has more than 300 physicians across seven counties in two states. SRHS employs nearly 6,000 associates and offers outpatient surgery centers, a vibrant post-acute division, a Level I Trauma Center, and Advicare, a licensed Health Maintenance Organization (HMO). Advicare provides Medicaid services to residents throughout the state of South Carolina. U.S. News and World Report ranked Spartanburg Medical Center the No. 1 regional hospital in South Carolina in 2014-15. The Commission on Cancer gave Gibbs Cancer Center & Research Institute its Outstanding Achievement Award.

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