Unique security research tests new procedures for decontaminating the injured

Photo: Decontamination of Injured Persons Project Archives
Monday 11 October 2021, 8:00 – Text: Martin Višňa

Palacký University Olomouc and the National Institute for Nuclear, Chemical and Biological Protection have collaborated on a national security research programme for the Czech Ministry of the Interior. The aim was to develop and test methodologies for decontamination of injured persons during emergencies related to the use of chemical, biological and radioactive substances. The results of the project will be delivered by the end of this year.

Certified methodologies describing and defining the procedures for decontamination of severely injured and bedridden persons in events such as terrorist attacks, industrial accidents, and natural disasters have not been available in Czechia to date. However, their creation is vital for patients in order to minimise the time of their stay at the disaster site, to maximise the efficiency of the triage system, to initiate treatment, and subsequently to maximise the efficiency of transport and start the hospital phase of treatment.

“Until now, it has been assumed that contaminated persons are only minimally injured. However, few experts have considered the fact that routine injuries can also occur when persons are contaminated, and there was no methodology for decontamination and simultaneous treatment of open injuries, for example. This lack has been evident not only in the pre-hospital phase of emergency medicine but also during emergency care in hospitals, i.e. in emergency departments. Healthcare professionals working in the field as well as in hospitals are not fully prepared for such issues,” said the project’s main investigator Petr Hubáček, a specialist in emergency medicine, formerly a researcher at the UP Faculty of Health Sciences, currently the chief physician at Domažlice Hospital. The project team led by him consisted of thirty experts; Palacký University was represented by academics from the UP Faculty of Health Sciences and the UP Faculty of Medicine and Dentistry, as well as employees of the UP Science and Technology Park.

“Both methodologies were preceded by very detailed research at national and international levels, comprising of a large number of laboratory tests provided by the National Institute for Nuclear, Chemical and Biological Protection and the Department of Pharmacology at the UP Faculty of Medicine and Dentistry. These foundations gave rise to a preliminary version of the methodologies, which had to be tested in a ‘real’ situation; our research partners were the components of the national Integrated Rescue System, namely the Fire Brigade Rescue Corps of the Olomouc, Moravian-Silesian, and Pilsen regions, and the Medical Rescue Services of Prague and of the Olomouc and Moravian-Silesian regions. Up to 250 persons were involved in validation exercises, conducting a coordinated intervention which was measured and tested. The results of these exercises helped us define the maximum possible capacity of this methodology,” he added.

For instance, a large validation exercise took place in the spring of 2019 near Hlučín. Another exercise took place at Domažlice Hospital, where they also focussed on training hospital staff on how to wear protective clothing and on the specifics of treating patients under emergency conditions. This experience came in handy for the doctors and paramedics when the Covid-19 epidemic broke out shortly afterwards, and the hospital served as a “covid only” hospital for patients from the region.

The epidemic significantly affected the course of the project itself, given the nature of the research. “All preparation, training, and workshops related to the hospital phase of the project were interrupted. The cooperating units of the Integrated Rescue System, in particular the fire brigade and the participating hospitals, which had a key role in our project, were in the state of emergency until this May, so it was problematic, if not impossible, to invite them to join our training sessions. Due to these complications, the project was extended,” explained Hubáček.

After the epidemic situation eased at the beginning of the summer, work on the project resumed, and among other things, a set of instructional videos was created at Domažlice Hospital, which will be used to teach the staff of the national Integrated Rescue System. In the videos, 3D and virtual reality is used, which will allow more effective training. All project results, including the training programme, will be delivered by 31 December of this year.

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