WHO in the former Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia supports a simulation exercise to test health crisis preparedness in the Veles region

Red Cross

A simulation exercise to test the preparedness of the hospital serving the region of Veles, as well as of the emergency medical services (EMS), was held on 26 October 2016.

Health and emergency workers responded to a simulated flooding event, in which 12 people appeared to have drowned.

This was the eighth such test organized by WHO in close cooperation with health authorities in the country to strengthen the health system's capacity to plan for and respond to crises. The country experienced severe flooding in August 2016, followed by landslides, with more than 20 victims. The health sector responded well to the flooding but the simulation exercise was designed to enhance preparedness for similar events in the future. The city of Veles is at risk of flooding because the biggest river in the country, the Vardar, passes through it.

The hospital in Veles is one of the eight regional hospitals in the country and therefore it was important to test the functioning of the hospital’s preparedness plan as well as its communication and coordination with other institutions responsible for health in crises, especially the EMS, the Crisis Management Centre (CMC) and the Red Cross. The exercise helped refresh the knowledge of the EMS teams and improved their skills in coping with situations involving numerous injured patients.

The exercise was organized in cooperation with the CMC, the Directorate for Protection and Rescue, fire-rescue units, the National Public Health Institute, Health House Veles and the Ministry of Interior (police forces in Veles).

Preparation

A series of preparatory meetings gave the participants an overview of the simulation exercise and highlighted relevant information on expected casualties, trigger indicators for activating the emergency response plan, triage and patient traffic flow, and the responsibilities of hospital and EMS staff.

Outcome

The exercise called for strong and coordinated multisectoral cooperation in the public health response, in accordance with the principles of the European policy framework, Health 2020. It revealed the presence of strong command leadership, committed and qualified staff, and effective management of incoming patients.

WHO and Ministry of Health officials will continue to work with national partners to further test and upgrade hospital crisis preparedness plans, to ensure that EMS and hospitals will be ready to meet increased service demands during crises.