Upstate News

August 21, 2003
Darryl Geddes 315 464-4828

New York State Fair and SUNY Upstate to create medical facility to strengthen Central New York’s disaster preparations

Central New York’s ability to care for mass casualties will be greatly enhanced by an expanded and enhanced infirmary and a surge capacity facility located in the Youth Building on the New York State Fairgrounds. The project, a collaborative effort between SUNY Upstate Medical University and the New York State Fair, will create an alternative emergency care facility for use in times of disaster when mass casualties are expected.

The mass casualty medical complex will be developed through renovations and upgrades to the State Fair Infirmary and the Youth Building.

The project, to be completed in two phases calls, for the expansion of the State Fair Infirmary from 2,500 square feet to more than 5,800 square feet, as well as the creation of trauma beds and patient rooms outfitted with patient monitoring equipment. Phase two of the project includes the renovation of the second floor of the Youth Building which can accommodate a surge of up to 800 beds during times of disaster. Improvements will also be made to the electrical, heating and ventilation systems. Renovation of the infirmary is nearing completion.

“Our definition of what disaster preparedness meant changed forever on Sept. 11, 2001,” said Gregory L. Eastwood, M.D., president of SUNY Upstate. “This project, undertaken by two state agencies, will help bring Central New York into the forefront of disaster preparedness.”

Fair Director Peter Cappuccilli Jr., said: “We are pleased to be a part of this project and strongly believe that part of our mission at the Fair includes collaboration to better meet the needs of the citizens of Upstate NewYork. The Fairgrounds has supported many endeavors in its rich history, but perhaps none more important to our community’s well-being than this project.”

Discussions between SUNY Upstate and the State Fair on developing a medical facility for mass casualties began in October 2001 as officials evaluated the community’s ability to meet increased demand for patients. “We had the medical expertise and the State Fair had the amentities: an existing medical facility on site, a large parking capacity and easy access to and from for emergency transport, including helicopters,” said Richard Hunt, professor and chair of emergency medicine at SUNY Upstate. Hunt noted that the State Fair is already the receiving site for evacuation for Oswego County in the event of an incident at the nearby nuclear power plant.

In addition to caring for the mass casualties, the complex can be used as an alternative emergency care facility for Central New York, by operating when a hospital emergency room becomes unusable and or patient volume exceeds the community’s healthcare resources. A local train wreck or plane crash could require hospitalization of more than 300 victims.

Aside from medical treatment, the site will be used for educational purposes by sponsoring training for emergency responders and medical professionals.

The project has caught the interest of numerous federal agencies, including the Department of Homeland Security, Centers for Disease Control, Health Resource Services Administraton and the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration. Local and state organizations that have been tapped for input on the project. include Rural Metro, New York State Office of Emergency Medical Services and the Iroquis Healthcare Association.

“We have heard from many corners on this endeavor and all have expressed great interest in its development,” said Hunt. “This collaborative effort is being hailed by many as a model example of what communities should do to strengthen their disaster preparedness.”

Nearly $150,000 in federal funds to initiate the project was obtained from the Health Resource and Services Administration with support from U.S. Rep. James Walsh. But additional funding is needed to contine work on the project. “We continue to talk to local, state and federal agencies about the projects benefits to New York, and people continue to be very receptive about what they hear,” Hunt said.

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