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Point of View: Team work makes the dream work


One of my favorite quotes is from Bo Schembechler, a former football coach for the University of Michigan. In a 1983 speech to his football squad before a big game, he said, “The Team, The Team, The Team.” In health care, the team is at the core of everything we do in service to our patients and the community.

Earlier this month, I saw firsthand how caregiver teams at PeaceHealth Ketchikan Medical Center seamlessly meshed with first responders and others to respond to a plane crash on Prince of Wales Island.

Alaska State Troopers called our Emergency Department to alert them of the crash and that passengers from the plane would soon be headed in. All caregivers at PeaceHealth Ketchikan were notified by overhead announcement and email.

Our Emergency Department manager evaluated the situation, ensured patient access, and gathered supplies and equipment to receive what was initially an unknown number of potential patients with unknown medical needs.

Surgery and nursing teams were alerted to stand by for potential patients. Caregivers in support departments such as imaging, the lab, food and environmental services, admitting and supplies knew their roles and were ready. Even our childcare staff and chaplain prepared.

A Coast Guard rescue helicopter was dispatched from Sitka, found the wreckage on Mount Jumbo 40 miles southeast of Ketchikan, and rescued the passengers. Many have seen the dramatic Coast Guard footage of the crew hoisting the survivors aboard.

The passengers were taken to a staging area on Prince of Wales Island where they were passed to the able hands of Guardian Flight and Ketchikan Volunteer Rescue Squad. TEMSCO helicopters flew them to their Peninsula Point facility in Ketchikan for transport to PeaceHealth Ketchikan.

Seven ambulances from the Ketchikan Fire Department, and the North and South Volunteer Fire Departments were at the TEMSCO site to relay the passengers to the PeaceHealth Ketchikan.

Once the helicopters landed, I watched the team demonstrate elegance, professionalism and profound focus on the task at hand to assess, triage and treat the 11 patients who ultimately arrived.

This is what our teams train for. The Emergency Department and other medical center departments participate regularly in disaster drills that provide extensive training to simulate disaster situations like plane crashes. They work with first responders like Ketchikan Volunteer Rescue Squad, U.S. Coast Guard, Alaska State Troopers, EMS, and Ketchikan fire and police departments. They speak the same language. They train with airport personnel, the ferry crew, and other health care providers so everyone knows their role in disaster situations.

Guardian Flight medevaced four of the plane’s passengers to Harborview Medical Center in Seattle. One person was admitted to PeaceHealth Ketchikan, and the other six were evaluated and released.

As the chief administrative officer at PeaceHealth Ketchikan Medical Center, it was a moment of great pride for me to see our teams and community partners respond with professionalism and seamless coordination. On behalf of the entire leadership team at PeaceHealth, I want to thank not only our team at the medical center, but all those who responded. Each of you truly makes a difference.

I am proud to be a member of this team — at this facility and in this community.

Ed Freysinger is chief administrative officer of the PeaceHealth Ketchikan Medical Center.