Health Sector Preparedness for Major Earthquake Injuries

The southeastern Turkey and northwestern Syria experienced a devastating earthquake of 7.8 magnitude on 6th February, 2023 at 4:15 am local time. A number of buildings collapsed, increasing the death toll to 5000 in 30 hours. The size of the earthquake is a significant element, but it is not the only one. More than 200,000 people died as a result of the 2010 Haiti earthquake, which had a magnitude of 7, the 2011 Japan earthquake, which had a magnitude 9 claimed 12000 lives, and the 2015 Nepal earthquake, which had a magnitude 7, claimed 8000 lives. Therefore, factors that are associated with deaths are the population, the structural and non-structural elements and the readiness of the medical response.

According to studies, the need for medical attention peaks between 12 hours and 3 days after an incident, and the number of patients seeking emergency care peaks between 24 and 48 hours. Soft tissue, bone, chest, and brain traumas are the most frequent types of injuries. Renal failure as a result of crush injuries is also rather prevalent, particularly in densely populated urban areas. It’s also wise to prepare for the burn brought on by a flash fire due to natural gas pipe break. In addition, lung injury brought on by dust inhalation from a building collapse are also possible.

In such condition medical response requires, arrangement for management of trauma, intravenous fluids, dialysis as well as preparedness of burn center and management of respiratory problems. The coordination of effort can be best done by activating hospital incident command system. Surge plan needs to be activated by coordinating hub and satellite hospitals.  Best response is achieved by working on preparedness, therefore preparedness is the key to effective response. The country like Nepal which is also prone to earthquake must consider investment in preparedness. This includes implementation of building codes; structural, non-structural improvement; training medical persons, stock piling and development of disaster management plan.

Ashis Shrestha