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College of Eastern Idaho can be overflow for EIRMC in disaster

Idaho Falls

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College of Eastern Idaho health care building. | Photos by Brittni Johnson, EastIdahoNews.com

IDAHO FALLS — If a major disaster ever strikes in Idaho Falls, the College of Eastern Idaho could take some of the burden off Eastern Idaho Regional Medical Center.

In the situation where EIRMC would have to evacuate patients or not be able to care for them, they could be moved to CEI’s nursing facilities.

The memorandum of agreement made between CEI and the hospital is what EIRMC’s Director of Emergency Preparedness and Clinical Operations Jim Howard said is a contingency plan.

“This is a situation that would evolve only if there’s a government-mandated action that there’s a disaster,” Howard said. “And then we can go into an alternative form of care from there.”

The plan was created when CEI was Eastern Idaho Technical College. Kathleen Nelson, CEI division manager of health professions, said a few years back the state offered to give the college a building. She had her hand in on designing what is known today as the Health Care Education Building Six.

“They just basically came in and said, ‘What do you want?'” Nelson said. “My faculty and I were able to meet with the architect and really design that building, which we felt would be very helpful, not only for education purposes, but we also designed the building so that if there was ever a need, we could be an overflow for an emergency disaster.”

With the short distance between EIRMC and CEI, that was another benefit Nelson saw with the two entities working together. It’s also something that Nelson believes caught legislators’ eye in deciding to build the facility for CEI in the first place.

“I’ve done a lot of research on educational programs that are very successful with collaborations with hospitals, and (the research) kept talking about being within the five-mile corridor at the main medical facility,” Nelson said. “And we’re way less than five miles.”

The health care building opened fall 2007, and it replicates what one would see in a hospital, from the oversized elevator that can accommodate stretchers and double doors in the hallways. And staff have the capability of bringing in anesthesia agents and plumbing them in. Every bedside has an oxygen port, suction port and an air port. One of the rooms can be turned into a working operating room if minor surgeries need to be performed.

Along with Building Six, the health care department has a sim lab in Building Two. It’s similar to an intensive care unit. It’s also set up almost identical to the Health Care Education Building in terms of oxygen and air ports.

“They have a hospital-type setup there, patient type rooms, places that we could use effectively to care for patients,” Howard said.

They have at least 12 hospital beds and each one can go in an individual room. The clinic area could host approximately another 15 people. Nelson said classrooms would probably be cleaned out to make room for even more patients where more cots could be placed.

“Talking about staffing, they do have their health care occupation staff. A lot of them are health care providers, so they would probably be able to help in an emergency-type situation,” Howard said. “There’s a lot of benefits working together as partners in our community to really address and meet those needs in a disaster if one is to occur.”

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