Alternate site surge capacity in times of public health disaster maintains trauma center and emergency department integrity: Hurricane Katrina

Alexander Eastman, Kathy J Rinnert, Ira R. Nemeth, Raymond L Fowler, Joseph P Minei

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

35 Scopus citations


BACKGROUND: Hospital surge capacity has been advocated to accommodate large increases in demand for healthcare; however, existing urban trauma centers and emergency departments (TC/EDs) face barriers to providing timely care even at baseline patient volumes. The purpose of this study is to describe how alternate-site medical surge capacity absorbed large patient volumes while minimizing impact on routine TC/ED operations immediately after Hurricane Katrina. METHODS: From September 1 to 16, 2005, an alternate site for medical care was established. Using an off-site space, the Dallas Convention Center Medical Unit (DCCMU) was established to meet the increased demand for care. Data were collected and compared with TC/ED patient volumes to assess impact on existing facilities. RESULTS: During the study period, 23,231 persons displaced by Hurricane Katrina were registered to receive evacuee services in the City of Dallas, Texas. From those displaced, 10,367 visits for emergent or urgent healthcare were seen at the DCCMU. The mean number of daily visits (mean ± SD) to the DCCMU was 619 ± 301 visits with a peak on day 3 (n = 1,125). No patients died, 3.2% (n = 257) were observed in the DCCMU, and only 2.9% (n = 236) required transport to a TC/ED. During the same period, the mean number of TC/ED visits at the region's primary provider of indigent care (Hospital 1) was 346 ± 36 visits. Using historical data from Hospital 1 during the same period of time (341 ± 41), there was no significant difference in the mean number of TC/ED visits from the previous year (p = 0.26). CONCLUSIONS: Alternate-site medical surge capacity provides for safe and effective delivery of care to a large influx of patients seeking urgent and emergent care. This protects the integrity of existing public hospital TC/ED infrastructure and ongoing operations.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)253-257
Number of pages5
JournalJournal of Trauma - Injury, Infection and Critical Care
Issue number2
StatePublished - Aug 2007


  • Disaster management
  • Emergency medical services
  • Prehospital care
  • Public health
  • Surge capacity

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Surgery
  • Critical Care and Intensive Care Medicine


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