Westmead Hospital transforms for ‘mass casualty’ scenario with 150 staff involved in immersive training

From triaging hundreds of patients to a media press conferences, Westmead Hospital has mobilised for an impressive exercise featuring over 150 staff simulating a crisis response.

Using the scenario of a nearby stadium collapse, teams were broken into 20 groups and spent a day running through the exercise to test system capacity, operations and response when faced with a disaster situation.

Known as ‘emergotrain’, this exercise is a Swedish disaster training tool provides a chance to review mass casualty plans particularly following COVID. This event was the first to run in NSW since 2019 and took over six months of planning.

The day started with an all-in briefing at one of the lecture theatres in Westmead Hospital, outlining the details of the disaster (dubbed ‘Exercise Janus’) which involved a stadium collapse and the assessment of preliminary impacts on the hospital.

Staff were then split into teams according to their function in the crisis, and separated to each of their departments in the Westmead hospital WECC.

This ranged from the hospital’s emergency operations centre (EOC) to departments representing areas like emergency, operating theatres, intensive care, pharmacy and radiology, with participants from a variety of specialties to simulate as closely as possible how a real-life disaster event would unfold.

Each team was equipped with a special phone line, packs containing details of the scenario and live updates were relayed back and forth to the EOC and clinical areas to recount new information which would impact proceedings, and resources required.

After several hours to let the exercise run its course for immediate reactions and establishment of workflows in this event, all participants reconvened to share key learnings from the practice.

Whether it was an increased need for communication between departments or a surplus of helpers that were identified by each group, these learnings helped to demonstrate how the Western Sydney Local Health District (WSLHD) community would rally in the event of a large-scale disaster.

The day was organised by Deputy Director of the Emergency Department at Westmead Hospital, Dr Kavita Varshney, and involved the assistance of over 40 instructors, medical umpires and runners to execute the detailed plans.

“Exercise Janus has provided us with a very unique opportunity to prepare for the worst case scenario and refine our strategy for mass casualty events in a controlled environment,” Kavita said.

“Seeing the enthusiasm and commitment of staff from all areas of the hospital was very rewarding, and I sincerely thank all who participated for their dedication to patient care.

“It speaks volumes of the staff at Westmead Hospital and the district that we can invest our time and energy into these training exercises and have such a positive outcome from this learning opportunity.”