Federal officials met metro-east disaster response team members Thursday to learn more about their operation.
The Edwardsville Regional Hospital Coordinating Center, which is located at Memorial Hospital in Belleville, is responsible for directing disaster response throughout Southwestern Illinois.
RHCC Coordinator Don Schneider said the metro-east-based response team is the best in the state, and federal officials were invited to view the emergency response team's equipment and see how federal funding has been spent.
"We have some federal people here who control the money and the grants, and they just want to verify that we have spent the money well, and we have," Schneider said. "We work with the state in deciding what we can spend the money on. This particular region has been the leader of many of the programs in the state, but what this really was is an inspection of the state. The feds would come in and inspect the State of Illinois and they decided to come to our region as the featured region because we do it well."
The Edwardsville Regional Hospital Coordinating Center is part of the Southwest Illinois EMS Region IV -- one of 11 medical disaster response regions organized under the Illinois Department of Public Health.
Region IV includes Bond, Clinton, Fayette, Greene, Macoupin, Madison, Monroe, Randolph, St. Clair, and Washington counties -- a population of approximately 702,814. The state health department has designated Memorial Hospital as the Regional Hospital Coordination Center for Region IV.
The federal government provides grants to make sure hospitals are prepared to respond to bio-hazards and disasters, like Hurricane Katrina. Although the hurricane struck the Mississippi Delta in 2005, the metro-east responders were called on to help as victims and residents from the South were transported to the metro-east for medical treatment.
"We received patients from Katrina from the airport and we provided care in our local hospitals," Schneider said. "So we have to have a plan on the receiving end and our hospitals have to be able to admit them. If we have a large local event, we have to be able to coordinate hospital beds.
"Although all of those hospitals are competitors for patient care, the reality is in emergency preparedness, they function together as a team and work very well together."
Ironically, the disaster response team was deployed during the Thursday's visit when a sewer exploded in Sauget.
"Suddenly, a third of the people in the meeting left," Schneider said. "Where did they go? There was an event in Sauget."
After meeting with local emergency responders, the federal officials were lead on a tour of the disaster response team's mobile units and equipment, including an decontamination shower and other supplies that were set up inside the hospital and outside in mobile trailers in the hospital's parking lot.
"Our region is well prepared for mass-casualty incidents and our hospitals and health departments are doing a very good job of coordinating and working together in planning," Schneider said.
Contact reporter Will Buss at email@example.com or 239-2526.