Regional One Health worked with other local emergency management entities to respond to the tragic mass shooting in Collierville Thursday, September 23. In total, eight patients were transported to Regional One Health.
On Friday, health care system leaders addressed the community to discuss the response and offer prayers to those impacted by the incident.
They also said the community can rest assured that the local emergency response network is robust and highly effective at responding to crisis events.
Like everyone else, emergency officials hope a tragedy like the Thursday, September 23 mass shooting at a Collierville grocery store never occurs. But unlike most people, along with hoping, they also spend countless hours planning for the worst case scenario.
Regional One Health officials spoke Friday to extend condolences and prayers to those affected by the shooting, while also offering reassurances that Memphis’s emergency response network, despite the strain of the COVID-19 pandemic, is robust and effective.
“When we have to swell as we did yesterday, we are ready, we are prepared, we function and lives are saved,” said President and CEO Reginald Coopwood, MD. “While we don’t want to see a tragedy like this one ever again, our community can be comfortable and confident that if we do, Regional One Health is ready, willing and able to take care of people.”
Dr. Coopwood, joined by Chief Medical Officer Martin Croce, MD; Chief of Trauma/Surgical Critical Care Andrew Kerwin, MD; and Elvis Presley Trauma Center Medical Director Peter Fischer, MD provided insight into the network of partnerships and carefully developed plan that is in place to react to incidents like the Collierville mass shooting.
It starts before a patient ever enters a hospital.
Shortly after the incident occurred, emergency medical personnel mobilized and Regional One Health and other hospitals were alerted to prepare to receive multiple critically injured patients.
Dr. Fischer, who holds active paramedic and firefighter certifications and serves as Medical Director of the Hospital Wing air ambulance service, was actually staffing a medical helicopter at the time, and made his way to Collierville to help care for patients.
Paramedics were on scene quickly to provide emergency care, and although helicopters were at the scene, all patients were able to be transported via ground ambulance. “It’s really key to get patients here as quickly as possible,” Dr. Fischer said. “We had an amazing prehospital response. Ground ambulance crews did exactly what they should do – grab patients and go.”
Meanwhile, area hospitals were already preparing to receive a significant number of patients in a short amount of time. In the Collierville shooting, eight patients were sent to Regional One Health, and six more were taken to other area hospitals.
While Dr. Croce noted it isn’t unusual for Regional One Health to care for eight critically injured patients at one time, they usually arrive over a more extended period of time. With an incident like Thursday’s, therefore, early notification was key.
Regional One Health had been alerted quickly so it could immediately implement its mass-surge plan. Extra staff was called into the trauma center, and everyone played a role: Security, nursing, trauma surgery, emergency medicine, respiratory therapy, X-ray technicians, registration and admissions, operating room staff, environmental services, etc.
“We were able to mobilize patients who were already in the hospital to free up space to assess, stabilize and treat the patients coming to us,” Dr. Kerwin said.
“The Regional One Health team stepped up and performed amazingly,” Dr. Fischer said. “Patients were cleared from critical care assessment, operating rooms were ready, and ICU beds were made. It was truly a team effort.”
Cooperation with other hospitals is another crucial component of the plan. While Regional One Health cares for the most critically injured patients as the region’s Level 1 Trauma Center, other hospitals make that possible by treating patients with non-traumatic injuries.
That was especially important considering Thursday’s incident happened amid the resurgence of COVID-19. Dr. Croce said leaders from area hospitals have met throughout the pandemic to make sure resources are available for the community, which includes ensuring Regional One Health has capacity for patients in need of its specialized services like trauma and burn.
As if to highlight the point, as Dr. Croce spoke he had to pause under the noise of a medical helicopter bringing a patient to the trauma center for life-saving care.
“This tragedy emphasizes the important role Regional One Health plays in this community, but it also highlights the cooperation among all local hospitals,” he said. “That cooperation let us mobilize resources to care for a mass influx of patients in a mass casualty situation.”
They will continue to build on those relationships, and Regional One Health will keep fine-tuning its emergency response to address community needs and lessons learned. For example, Dr. Fischer noted, the Collierville shooting revealed a need to improve air traffic control communication plans for situations where multiple medical helicopters are in the air.
But for now, the focus remains squarely on continuing to care for the patients from Thursday’s tragedy, as well as all other patients in need of Regional One Health’s expertise.
“Being prepared to serve our community is one of the key facets of the trauma center, and this situation highlights the incredible legacy here at Regional One Health in terms of serving not only the City of Memphis, but the surrounding area,” Dr. Kerwin said.