Friday 30 September 2016

Leo Varadkar: Hospitals could cope with terror attack, but it won't be pretty

Published 30/11/2015 | 09:43

Leo Varadkar said hospitals were ready for a Paris-style crisis
Leo Varadkar said hospitals were ready for a Paris-style crisis

Health Minister Leo Varadkar has said the health service has a plan for coping with the aftermath of a terrorist attack - but he said it "wouldn't be pretty".

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Mr Varadkar was outlining what would happen in the event of a Paris-like attack happening in Ireland.

On November 13, a series of terror attacks on Paris saw the deaths of 130 people.

The medical response to the horrific incident has been widely praised, with 35 surgical teams from 10 hospitals across Paris operating on the most seriously injured continuously through the night.

Emergency

Mr Varadkar said that in the event of an incident here, every hospital would enact the major emergency plan.

"The emergency plan would involve all staff called in, anybody who can be, being discharged out of the hospital, if there are trolleys, all [of them being] moved up to the existing wards.

"You would then bring all the emergencies into the emergency department," he said.

Out-patient clinics would all be cancelled that day, and they would be used to see the people with minor injuries, he said.

"The skin doctor might be seeing the ankles down in the out-patient clinic.

"It wouldn't be pretty, but we have major emergency plans, and they are tested from time to time," he said on RTE's Marian Finucane radio show yesterday.

Claire Mahon, the President of the Irish Nurses and Midwives Organisation (INMO) also said that she believed that all the stops would be pulled out in the event of such an attack.

"I know every hospital has their own major emergency plan, but I think in a situation like the Paris attack, people are generally very good, and I think all the stops would be pulled out and I actually do think we would cope in our health system with an immediate crisis event of that nature.

"Every hospital across the country does have contingency plans, and it does mean staff would come in on their time off to help out, which they did in Paris, and the same mechanisms would work here, and I do think they would work quite well," Ms Mahon added.

If an attack, or attempted attack, were to take place in Ireland, a National Emergency plan would be enacted across the country.

The Government Task Force on Emergency Planning was formed following the 9/11 attacks in New York.

In the event of an attack, first responders, such as the ambulance and fire service, would assess the scene and once a major emergency has been declared would appoint an ambulance-loading location for casualties.

Hospitals dealing with casualties would operate on a different system during a mass-casualty incident, with every hospital having its own major incident plan to implement.

Security

Separately, it has emerged that the possibility of a terror threat against US multi-nationals in Ireland from Islamic terrorists is being actively assessed by security services.

Senior Government sources have said that all potential targets for Islamic terrorists, including hi-tech US firms based in Ireland are being closely examined by gardai as part of a renewed effort to enhance security.

There are also ongoing discussions between gardai, foreign embassies and international firms assessing the potential of jihadi terror groups, such as the so-called Islamic State, launching attacks in this country.

Ireland has become an international hub for multi-nationals due to the country's low corporation tax rate.

These companies employ thousands of Irish and international workers.

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