Ready to re­spond

A look at Yuma Re­gional Med­i­cal Cen­ter’s de­con­tam­i­na­tion room


Ev­ery year, be­tween 25 and 40 people will be brought to Yuma Re­gional Med­i­cal Cen­ter after hav­ing been ex­posed to a dan­ger­ous chem­i­cal, ac­cord­ing to YRMC di­rec­tor of Sys­tem Safety and Se­cu­rity Mark Hut­sell.

This year, the hospi­tal is geared up for such events with its de­con­tam­i­na­tion room, lo­cated within the Emer­gency De­part­ment.

As the win­ter months draw ever closer, Hut­sell noted the im­por­tance of hav­ing such a room read­ily avail­able, as a large num­ber of the people typ­i­cally ex­posed to po­ten­tially dan­ger­ous sub­stances tend to be farm­work­ers, he said.

Ac­cord­ing to the Na­tional Cen­ter for Farm­worker Health’s 2014 agri­cul­tural pro­file of Ari­zona, it is es­ti­mated that there are 10,374 mi­grant work­ers within Yuma County. The es­ti­mates also show that there are 27,626 sea­sonal work­ers, not in­clud­ing de­pen­dents.

“We’ve had a lot of farm­work­ers be­fore that maybe get a drift from a field where they are do­ing aerial spray­ing or they go into a field that’s been sprayed and they were not aware and they were ex­posed,” Hut­sell ex­plained in an in­ter­view with the Yuma Sun.

While many people who have been con­tam­i­nated at the hospi­tal have been from the lo­cal farm­worker pop­u­la­tion, Hut­sell said mem­bers of the pub­lic could po­ten­tially ex­pose them­selves to dan­ger­ous chem­i­cals dur­ing ac­ci­dents or mis­use within their own homes.

In those cases, Hut­sell said those with ex­po­sure should call 911 im­me­di­ately to en­list the help of Emer­gency Med­i­cal Ser-

vices (EMS) rather than trans­port­ing them­selves to the hospi­tal.

Those who are brought to the hospi­tal with ex­po­sure, how­ever, are taken di­rectly to the de­con­tam­i­na­tion room, as it has both an ex­ter­nal and in­ter­nal en­try­way large enough to fit gur­neys in the case for ex­posed in­di­vid­u­als who may be am­bu­la­tory or un­able to move.

Hut­sell said the pro­ce­dure then in­volves the re­moval of their con­tam­i­nated clothes, which are bagged up and con­tained.

Fol­low­ing cloth­ing re­moval, Hut­sell ex­plained those who were ex­posed then go through a process of de­con­tam­i­na­tion with hospi­tal staff, which can in­clude se­cu­rity as they are trained for such an oc­cur­rence. Low pres­sure show­ers are used to avoid fur­ther skin ir­ri­ta­tion that shower heads with a higher pres­sure may cause. Tem­per­a­tures of the wa­ter are also not to be­come too hot as the heat opens the pores and can fur­ther ex­as­per­ate the con­di­tion.

“We pro­vide them with some Dawn liq­uid soap to ba­si­cally wash from the top down,” Hut­sell said. “Once that’s done and they are dried off they go into the emer­gency de­part­ment and be­gin the med­i­cal as­sess­ment and treat­ment.”

Hut­sell said a nurse will al­ways be present in the de­con­tam­i­na­tion room ob­serv­ing should a med­i­cal emer­gency oc­cur dur­ing the de­con­tam­i­na­tion process.

Hospi­tal per­son­nel al­ways wear spe­cial­ized cloth­ing for pro­tec­tion dur­ing the process, he added.

The de­con­tam­i­na­tion room was im­ple­mented into the YRMC Emer­gency De­part­ment which opened in De­cem­ber of last year. Thus far, Hut­sell said it has not had to be uti­lized.

Prior to the ad­di­tion of the de­con­tam­i­na­tion room, Hut­sell said the hospi­tal used an out­side unit for such needs that is smaller than the cur­rent fa­cil­ity with less ca­pa­bil­i­ties.

“We are re­ally lucky to have this room,” Hut­sell stated. “There are not a lot of places that have a ded­i­cated de­con­tam­i­na­tion room.”

Some hos­pi­tals, he said, uti­lize ex­te­rior tents for de­con­tam­i­na­tion which can be time con­sum­ing to set up in the case of an emer­gency or large scale event.

YRMC’s present de­con­tam­i­na­tion room has the ca­pa­bil­ity of han­dling four de­nom­i­na­tions at one time and con­tains two hand­held shower sta­tions which cre­ates ease for use.

“We have the abil­ity with the room to change from pos­i­tive pres­sure to neg­a­tive pres­sure, mean­ing that if we have a chem­i­cal ma­te­rial in this room-like those that are volatilized and could po­ten­tially harm other in­di­vid­u­als-we can keep that iso­lated in the room by draw­ing all the air in the cor­ri­dor into the room where it’s fil­tered and ex­hausted so we don’t have to worry about any of those va­pors get­ting out of the room,” Hut­sell said.

Hut­sell noted the room con­tains an un­der­ground stor­age tank so that none of the wa­ter that comes off the de­con­tam­i­na­tion can make it into the “san­i­tary sewer sys­tem.”

“It’s all con­tained un­der­ground and then we would have the tank pumped out after it be­comes full,” Hut­sell ex­plained. “We can mon­i­tor the tank lev­els in the se­cu­rity de­part­ment and we get no­ti­fi­ca­tions on cer­tain lev­els and if it is be­gin­ning to fill up.”

Hut­sell said the tank is large enough to han­dle many de­con­tam­i­na­tion in­ci­dents be­fore it be­gins to be­come full.

The room also fea­tures an eye wash sta­tion, a floor cov­ered with epoxy for seal­ing pur­poses and to keep any­thing from get­ting on the walls, which are made of a solid sur­face so that there are “no gaps or breaks that would al­low chem­i­cal ma­te­ri­als to get through them,” Hut­sell added.

“The funny thing about the room is I think it shows real em­pha­sis on the hospi­tal’s part to be pre­pared for rare events,” Hut­sell said. “It sits un­used most of the time but when you need this, you re­ally need one that is func­tional and works well for the com­mu­nity. When those 30 people come in that have been con­tam­i­nated — to be able set it up quickly and bring those people through de­con­tam­i­na­tion quickly so they can re­ceive med­i­cal care — that is re­ally what we are about is be­ing here for the com­mu­nity and be­ing pre­pared.”


THE DE­CON­TAM­I­NA­TION ROOM lo­cated within Yuma Re­gional Med­i­cal Cen­ter’s Emer­gency De­part­ment.


LEFT: THE EYEWASH STA­TION IN Yuma Re­gional Med­i­cal Cen­ter’s de­con­tam­i­na­tion room lo­cated within the Emer­gency De­part­ment. RIGHT: Yuma Re­gional Med­i­cal Cen­ter Di­rec­tor of Safety and Se­cu­rity Mark Hut­sell poses for a photo within the hospi­tal’s de­con­tam­i­na­tion room lo­cated within the Emer­gency De­part­ment.

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