The preparedness level of Finnish Emergency Medical Services (EMS) for treating chemical emergencies is unknown. The aim of this study was to survey the preparedness level of EMS systems for managing and handling mass-casualty chemical incidents in the prehospital phase in Finland.
The study hypothesis was that university hospital districts would have better clinical capability to treat patients than would central hospital districts in terms of the number of patients treated in the field within one hour after dispatching as well as patients transported to hospital within one hour or two hours after dispatching.
This cross-sectional study was conducted as a Webropol (Wuppertal, Germany) survey. All hospital districts (n=20) in continental Finland were asked about their EMS preparedness level in terms of capability of treating and transporting chemically affected patients in the field. Their capability for decontamination of affected patients in the field was also inquired.
University hospital district-based EMS systems had at least 20% better absolute clinical capacity than central hospital-based EMS systems for treating chemically affected patients concerning all treatments inquired about, except the capacity for non-invasive ventilation (NIV)/continuous positive airway pressure (CPAP) treatment in the field. Overall, there was a good level of preparedness for treating chemical accident patients with supplemental oxygen, bronchodilators, and inhaled corticosteroids. Preparedness for providing antidote therapy in cases of cyanide gas exposure was, in general, low. The variation among the hospital districts was remarkable. Only nine of 15 central hospital district EMS had a mobile decontamination unit available, whereas four of five university hospital districts had one.
Emergency Medical Services capacity in Finland for treating chemically affected patients in the field needs to be improved, especially in terms of antidote therapy. Mobile decontamination units should be available in all hospital districts.
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