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CNN BREAKING NEWS

Talk with President of Rhode Island Hospital

Aired February 21, 2003 - 08:37   ET

THIS IS A RUSH TRANSCRIPT. THIS COPY MAY NOT BE IN ITS FINAL FORM AND MAY BE UPDATED.

PAULA ZAHN, CNN ANCHOR: We're going to join Dr. Joseph Amaral on the phone right now, who is the president of Rhode Island Hospital to see how some of the patients who have been transported there have been doing.
Dr. Amaral, how many patients did you take in after last night's fire?

DR. JOSEPH AMARAL, PRESIDENT, RHODE ISLAND HOSPITAL: We treated 63 patients, and at the height of it, we also transferred three out at that time. So we ended up admitted 43 patients into the institution.

ZAHN: And can you describe to us what their problems were?

AMARAL: The majority of the injuries related not only to burns, but a very significant inhalation injury, so many of these patients required intubation (ph) in our own ventilators. There are critical 19 patients and 24 who are in fairly serious condition.

So it's a confined fire that not only creates burns, but also has a very serious consequence of inhalation injury.

ZAHN: We have heard from some patients this morning who had to go through a five or six-hour process just to determine whether their son had been transferred to an area hospital. How many people at your hospital, the patients you're treating, have been identified and have linked up with family members?

AMARAL: Paula, that's a really good point that you bring up. And actually, one of the more difficult things that we've dealt with through the night is what you're addressing, that we've had family members waiting and in one of the lobbies that we set up that has chairs in it for just that purpose. We have identified 42 of our 43 patients, and we've known for sometime who those 42 are.

However, as you know, there are a lot of patients that went to a variety of locations, and it's very difficult for these people to get in contact with sites where their family member might be. So it's been really one of the very stark realities of what's going on here today.

ZAHN: Dr. Amaral, a little bit earlier we were on the phone from Dr. Bob Baute (ph) at Kent Hospital, and he was talking about how impressed he was by the outside help you all got last night.

Describe to us what kind of additional resources came into play at your hospital last night in terms of doctors volunteering their time and people driving from a distance to help out.

AMARAL: Well, I'll tell you, the most impressive thing I saw wasn't just the physicians, but it was actually the staff who work in the institution. This is a level I regional trauma center and we occasionally use our disaster plan, and I will say that this is really the first time in my recollection we had something of this magnitude.

It was incredibly impressive to see the people, both physician and especially nonphysicians, come in and not only take care of these 43 patients and get them into critical care beds or hospital beds within two to three hours maximum within from the time of arrival, but to have them move patients from existing sites to other sites. It was really very dramatic.

And here, I think most of what we experienced was within the institution, our physicians and staff, and I really can't comment enough on how impressive it was to see the staff do the work that they did last night.

ZAHN: Were you thee when most of the patients arrived?

AMARAL: I was there shortly after that.

ZAHN: Describe to us what you saw.

AMARAL: There were ambulances coming in and patients coming in, and just very efficient process of immediately triaging patients from the emergency room treatment and getting them up to floors. So I came in at the tail end of that, but it was very impressive.

There was never a sense of pandemonium within the institution. It was just very orderly and quick decisions made about where they were going to go on immediate arrival.

ZAHN: I guess so, these patients are very lucky that that was a trauma I center. I have a question for you, and I know this is going to be a little bit difficult to answer, but the police chief indicating that he thought the death toll would go up. Are you expecting, from what you're hearing from other area hospitals, that the injuries sustained from some of these nightclubbers last night will be serious enough in the end to cost them their lives, too?

AMARAL: Certainly you're right. That is a difficult question to answer, and it's very hard to predict when one initially sees a patient, and it requires 24 to 36 hours to really make a fair assessment of that. Obviously, particularly in our institution, these people are seriously injured. I can't speak for the others. And there's going to be a long process of recovery for them all. So at best, you know, you're looking at months of recovery for that.

ZAHN: Doctor, just a final thought about what we are learning this morning from the fire chief that apparently, although a pyrotechnic license was required to put on the kind of show that was put on last night at The Station, the nightclub, apparently, none was ever applied for. As a member of the community, how angry does that make you? AMARAL: You know, actually, my comment last night was if you thought about it and you were thinking about 150 people in a room with fire going off and an 11-foot ceiling, you think, what were you thinking? but we do this all of the time, and I can't really comment. It's just a tragedy.

ZAHN: Our heart goes out to your community and we wish you continued good luck as you deal with the severity of injuries that you're dealing with right now.

Dr. Amaral, thank you very much for your time this morning.

AMARAL: Thank you.

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