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Tags will help during emergency

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GINA R. HEINE
December 6, 2007
— If a nurse puts a tag reading “DECEASED” on you during your next trip to the Edgerton emergency room, don’t worry.

You’re not dead.


Edgerton Hospital and Health Services is participating in a new educational process called “Triage Tag Week.” Starting on the first Tuesday of every month through the following Tuesday, all patients transported to the hospital by ambulance or who come to the urgent care/emergency room will be “tagged.”


“Triage” is a French word that means “to sort,” and the process happens daily with every ambulance and emergency department across the country. Patients are triaged to determine who needs care first, but usually the “tags” aren’t used.


Tagging is used primarily in mass casualty incidents, which in Edgerton means any incident with three or more patients, said Tom Freeman, an emergency medical technician and the hospital’s environmental/facilities manager. The procedure is the same for any mass casualty—whether it’s a terror event or an auto accident, he said.


“It’s trying to bring a lot of agencies—not only EMS, but the hospitals, fire—all under one umbrella and operating in a language that everyone can understand,” he said. “It allows us to very rapidly identify patients and use our training to assess who needs to go first.”


A tag is attached to the patients so other responders know that the patients have been assessed and what level of treatment they need. Each tag has a number, so patients can be tracked from the start of treatment to discharge.


The goal is to improve the management of trauma victims, said Tanya VanDeventer, hospital office business manager and operations manager for the ambulance service.


“When we do have to use them, we don’t want to be stumbling,” she said.


She said the process would have been helpful March 25, 1999, when a van crashed on Interstate 90/39 near Edgerton, killing seven young magazine sales people.


“If this system had been in place then, it would have been much easier to track where those patients where,” she said.


At the scene, a commander would have written each patient’s triage number on a board to track each person’s status, she said.


“There was so much confusion where the patients were all being taken to—which patient went where—that this would have helped a lot,” she said. “There were so many different agencies on scene that this would have been a big help.”


The hospital started the process last month internally, but not patients have been tagged, yet. The ambulance service will begin tagging patients starting Tuesday, Jan. 8. It will run indefinitely, “just to keep those skills sharp,” VanDeventer said.


The program is funded through federal Homeland Security grants.



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