NEWS

Amidst violence and chaos, Las Vegas medical infrastructure handles hundreds of patients

In times of tragedy, many people “look for the helpers”, as the Fred Rogers quote goes. The worst tragedy can bring out the best in people, as seen with the Cajun Navy in Hurricane Harvey, the Puerto Rican community response to Hurricane Maria, and the continual bravery of first responders in crises worldwide.

On Sunday night, a gunman unleashed torrents of bullets on the Route 91 Harvest Festival, killing 58 and injuring hundreds more before turning a gun on himself. Helpers were everywhere in Las Vegas that night and into the early morning hours, including doctors, nurses and hospital staff. 

Called the worst mass shooting in U.S. history, the tragedy left hundreds of patients with gunshot wounds. For roughly three hours, patients poured into area hospitals in ambulances and private vehicles – by midday Monday, a total of 515 casualties were being treated by Las Vegas hospitals, including hundreds of gunshot wounds.

A woman sits on a curb at the scene of a shooting outside of a music festival along the Las Vegas Strip, Monday, Oct. 2, 2017, in Las Vegas. Multiple victims were being transported to hospitals after a shooting late Sunday at a music festival on the Las Vegas Strip. (AP Photo/John Locher)
A woman sits on a curb at the scene of a shooting outside of a music festival along the Las Vegas Strip, Monday, Oct. 2, 2017, in Las Vegas. Multiple victims were being transported to hospitals after a shooting late Sunday at a music festival on the Las Vegas Strip. (AP Photo/John Locher)

Sunrise Hospital and Medical Center, a Level II trauma center capable of fully treating the patients, was closest to the scene of the shooting and received 180 patients, 124 of whom had gunshot wounds. University Medical Center of Southern Nevada is the area’s only Level I trauma center, a classification based on a hospital’s comprehensive ability to treat multiple patients for every aspect of their injury. The hospital treated 104 patients Sunday night, four of whom passed away. On Monday, twelve UMC patients remained in critical condition.

Such an influx of patients to already busy emergency rooms presented a challenge that Las Vegas hospitals had never faced before.

At UMC, “11 trauma bays, three operating rooms, a CT scanner, a trauma intensive care unit and a pediatric intensive care unit” were still not enough to handle this level of need. Hospital employees used recent training conducted by a doctor who had responded to Orlando’s Pulse Nightclub shooting, staging gurneys and wheelchairs on the sidewalk and opening up extra spaces for care. There were many accounts of hospital workers coming in unscheduled to help, and countless images of people waiting to donate blood flooded the internet over the next few days.

“I cannot believe the outpouring of love and affection from around the country,” Las Vegas Mayor Carolyn Goodman told KNPR’s State of Nevada. “But the remarkable passion that this community that we call home for supporting everybody who has been touched by this tragic event and by the loss of these 59 beautiful people.”

The massive response to the shooting has left other cities wondering how their medical system would handle such an event. While the events of Sunday night shook the country, the Las Vegas medical system relied on their training and professionalism, and other cities will certainly be taking note.

 

Sources:

Las Vegas Shooting: Hospitals Tested by ‘Wave After Wave’ of Wounded – NBC

Las Vegas Hospitals Call For Backup To Handle Hundreds of Shooting Victims – NPR

‘It’s not a matter of if, it’s when’ – How Las Vegas Prepared for a Massacre – CNBC

Trauma Center Levels Explained – American Trauma Society

Controlled Chaos at Las Vegas Hospital Trauma Center After Attack – New York Times

Response to Las Vegas shooting offers lesson to local trauma centers – WRAL.com