Thursday, December 18, 2014

South Korean health officials visit Augusta Monday to discuss Disaster Preparedness

Officials from the Korean Ministry of Health will visit the Augusta area Monday, Sept. 23 to learn more about disaster preparedness, including the threat of smaller or improvised nuclear attacks that surfaced in the aftermath of the Cold War.

Six leaders, including Soo Yeop Hyun, Director of the ministry’s Division of Emergency Care, will visit the Georgia Regents University Health Sciences Campus, the Augusta Fire Department and the Columbia County Emergency Management Agency.

The South Korean team is making similar fact-finding visits to Atlanta and Washington, D.C., as part of an ongoing initiative to optimize the country’s preparedness for manmade and natural disasters, said Dr. Phillip Coule, Vice Chairman of Business Development in the Medical College of Georgia Department of Emergency Medicine and Hospitalist Services and Chairman of the Board of Directors of the National Disaster Life Support Foundation, Inc., which is based on the GRU campus.

“South Korea is a strong partner in the increasingly global initiative to maximize response to and recovery from natural and manmade disasters,” Coule said.

The NDLS Foundation oversees a series of educational programs that better prepare health care professionals and emergency response personnel for mass casualty events. Courses are comprehensive, all-hazards, and multi-disciplinary and were developed by MCG, the University of Georgia, University of Texas Southwestern Medical Center at Dallas, and Texas A&M School of Public Health.

MCG and the NDLS Foundation have worked with Seoul National University Hospital for more than five years and currently operate five training centers in South Korea, Coule said. Additionally, Korean emergency medical services personnel regularly complete training in Augusta.

“It’s been as mutually beneficial relationship as our Asian colleagues have provided feedback that has assisted ongoing efforts to improve disaster response programs,” Coule said.

During this Augusta visit, Korean Ministry of Health officials will visit the Emergency Department at GR Health System as well as a decontamination facility on the campus. They’ll discuss issues such as the best approaches to stockpiling supplies in light of the reality that a nation’s largest cities are the likeliest targets for attack, Coule said. They’ll also discuss maximizing human survival in the aftermath of smaller nuclear attacks.

The recent North Korean nuclear threat along with the tragedy at the Boston Marathon were the focus of the NDLS Annual Meeting this summer cosponsored by MCG and the nonprofit NDLS Foundation. The meeting provided an opportunity for responders such as firefighters, physicians, paramedics, social workers and military personnel, to learn more about optimal disaster response.