East Texas Takes Part in Pandemic Flu Outbreak Drill

During a real Avian Flu outbreak, a tiny communication device would help emergency workers keep track of doctors, nurses, and other hospital staff. Vocera will let employees dial inside and outside lines at all times. Lufkin Memorial is the first rural hospital in the nation to get it.

"Thanks to the Vocera and the technology that we have at this hospital, we can compete with any large hospital facility in Houston or Dallas, and we are record-breaking for a rural hospital," said Risk Manager Cindi Reynolds.

Wednesday's drill was just like the real thing. Memorial was one of eight East Texas hospitals that spent all day admitting dozens of sick and dying people with all kinds of symptoms of the Avian Flu.

"We never think about it hitting close to home," said Marketing Director Yana Ogletree. "However, there's nothing good that comes out of pandemic flu, but you do have to have measures in place to know how you're going to deal with it."

Throughout the day, the outbreak got worse and took a toll on the entire community. From hospitals running out of supplies to having to decide who will get the last breathing machine to hospital capacity reaching 200 percent, the drill showed some gaps in local preparedness for a pandemic.

Safety Officer Ken Jobe said, "We need to order some supplies now rather than waiting until it occurs. As we talked in our command center about things we need; we don't have them yet and we're going to purchase those items. That's probably the biggest gap we've seen so far."

The day-long drill simulated six weeks of a pandemic, from the CDC confirming the first case of the bird flu to businesses and schools reopening with a smaller population because of deaths from the first wave of the virus.