Decontamination of multiple casualties who are chemically contaminated : a challenge for acute hospitals
Patients who have been contaminated by chemical compounds present a number of difficulties to emergency departments, in particular, the risk of secondary contamination of healthcare staff and facilities. The Department of Health in the United Kingdom has provided equipment to decontaminate chemically contaminated casualties who present at emergency departments. The capacity of this equipment is limited, and although both the ambulance and fire services have equipment to cope with mass casualties at the scene of a chemical incident, there is still the possibility that acute hospitals will be overwhelmed by large numbers of self-presenting patients. The risks and potential consequences of this gap in resilience are discussed and a number of possible practical solutions are proposed.