Tales of fire ...

When Burn­ing Man con­venes, this hos­pi­tal is ready for any­thing

Modern Healthcare - - OUTLIERS ASIDES & INSIDES -

When 68,000 or so par­tic­i­pants con­verge on Ne­vada’s Black Rock Desert this week to get the Burn­ing Man fire arts fes­ti­val rag­ing, things could get weird. They usu­ally do.

And if any­one ends up get­ting hurt or ill—what with the dis­plays of art pieces us­ing flames and py­rotech­nics; the in­ter­ac­tive art in­stal­la­tions, like last year’s Astroturf slide; the cloth­ing-op­tional pol­icy; and the pun­ish­ing desert weather— em­ploy­ees of Hum­boldt Gen­eral Hos­pi­tal will be there to help.

The 52-bed hos­pi­tal in ru­ral Win­nemucca, Nev., holds the long-term con­tract to pro­vide med­i­cal ser­vices to the artists, partiers, hip­sters and non­con­formists who gather each Au­gust on about five square miles of fed­er­ally owned land to camp, ex­press them­selves and build an anti-es­tab­lish­ment com­mu­nity they call Black Rock City. Last year, fest or­ga­niz­ers spent $455,024 on med­i­cal ser­vices and sup­plies.

Be­cause the site has no in­fra­struc­ture, Hum­boldt sets up a satel­lite hos­pi­tal, called Ram­part, and co­or­di­nates the 300 em­ploy­ees—from groundskeep­ers to EMTs—who are on standby to treat the nearly 3,200 ex­pected ill­nesses and in­juries. The hos­pi­tal sends two or three of its at­tend­ing physi­cians and also brings aboard emer­gency medicine res­i­dents from else­where in the state. Eight am­bu­lances are on-site. Louis Men­di­ola, the hos­pi­tal’s well­ness co­or­di­na­tor, said con­di­tions range from pri­mary-care is­sues such as uri­nary tract in­fec­tions and lac­er­a­tions to bro­ken bones and drug and al­co­hol abuse.

And Burn­ing Man has a least one unique mal­ady: playa foot. Walk­ing with­out socks and closed shoes in the al­kali desert can cause a chem­i­cal burn that leads to dry, cracked feet.

The mo­bile fa­cil­ity is also a “de­ploy­able re­source” for the hos­pi­tal to use for other health­care crises, such as flu sea­son, Men­di­ola says, though none quite as py­rotech­nic.

About 3,200 pa­tients are ex­pected at the tem­po­rary hos­pi­tal.

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