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Disaster response plan for GCC drawn up

Manama , September 21, 2010

Disaster victims in Bahrain could be treated at hospitals across the region under a new agreement being drawn up at GCC level.

The agreement is being finalised as Iran goes ahead with plans to fire up its first nuclear plant just across the Gulf waters in Bushehr.

Iran hopes its Russian-built reactor in southern Iran will be up and running by next month or in November, denying accusations that its drive to acquire atomic energy was a covert atomic weapons programme.

Critics have expressed concern at its proximity to the Gulf in the event of a leak, but the hospital contingency plan being drawn up by Bahrain and its neighbours would also come into effect in the event of a chemical attack, a bomb going off, a plane crash, building collapse and tornado, among other things.

Under the terms of the deal, victims of disasters in neighbouring countries could also be brought to Bahrain for treatment.

"Incidents such as plane crash, bus crash, building collapse and tornadoes will be considered major disasters," said Accident and Emergency department senior resident Dr Nasser Mohammed.

"We have never had any huge disaster in this region so far, but this agreement is in line with our future plans. You can expect a huge disaster in spite of the best laid out prevention measures, so it is always better to be ready and use each other's facilities if needed."

Dr Mohammed, who is charged with preparing the Health Ministry's disaster response plan, said the Mutual Aid Agreement would come in useful.

It means in the event of a disaster in Bahrain, measures are already in place to transport the victims to neighbouring countries for treatment or vice-versa - if outside help is required.

Details of the GCC-wide agreement are now being finalised and should come into effect soon, added Dr Mohammed - a member of the Health Ministry's disaster committee.

He revealed that Bahrain's Health Ministry had already successfully tested its own response to a disaster.

"We have done several drills within the Salmaniya Medical Complex (SMC), in other ministry facilities and in co-ordination with several other departments, under the aegis of the Interior Ministry's National Disaster Committee, and found that everything is working as planned," he added.

In one scenario, disaster response teams were in place at the site of an emergency in a skyscraper within six minutes of the first call coming in.

A plan also exists to evacuate SMC patients from the hospital in the event of large numbers of casualties coming in.

"A risk assessment team will evaluate the level of the disaster and take appropriate measures," explained Dr Mohammed.

"Health centres across Bahrain can be turned into hospitals, where all SMC patients could be shifted if needed to leave the hospital for those affected by the disaster."

He said the disaster response plan was constantly being monitored and updated every six months, while a system had been established where each person understood their responsibilities in the event of a crisis.

Arrangements are even in place for a decontamination facility to set up at the SMC, where victims of a chemical attack could be "cleaned" before being admitted to the hospital.

"Bahrain has actually had a national disaster plan in place since 1998 but a re-look had been started in 2008," said Dr Mohammed. "In some ways, we started re-evaluating the procedures after the Gulf Air crash in 2000, but it gathered pace in 2008." – TradeArabia News Service




Tags: Bahrain | GCC | Disaster | Response plan |

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