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SUNY Upstate's Center for Emergency Preparedness opens alternate emergency department, surge capacity facility at the New York State Fair

SYRACUSE, N.Y. - Congressman James T. Walsh and Gov. George E. Pataki will join SUNY Upstate Medical University leadership Thursday, Aug. 25, to open the new Alternate Site for Emergency Department Care at the New York State Fairgrounds that will serve as a national model for medical emergency preparedness. A tour of the facility will take place at 4 p.m. The facility is located behind the Horticulture Building.

SUNY Upstate President Gregory L. Eastwood, M.D., John McCabe, M.D., professor and chair of emergency medicine, and William Grant, Ed.D, executive director of the Center for Emergency Preparedness, will take part in the opening tour, celebrating a four-year collaboration between SUNY Upstate's Center for Emergency Preparedness and the State Fair.

"Changing world conditions today require that we counter every threat and plan for every contingency," said Walsh. "I'm proud to have secured over $1 million in federal resources to support this emergency preparedness facility protecting the Central New York community."

"SUNY Upstate Medical University acknowledges the efforts of Congressman Walsh, Governor Pataki and the various state agencies that have helped make this facility possible," Eastwood said. "SUNY Upstate takes great pride in participating in efforts like these as they underscore the cooperation between state and federal government that is so necessary in planning for disaster. The fact that SUNY Upstate has been a key player in this effort reflects on our mission to ensure the sound health of our community, especially in times of great need."

New York continues to be a leader in providing programs and services in the area of emergency preparedness. This facility is only one example of that leadership. The facility is on the same site as the old State Fair infirmary/first aid station, but that is where the similarity ends. This facility is unique in the United States and its opening solidifies New York's role as a leader in the effort to provide innovative hospital capacity in the event of disaster need. Its location at the State Fairgrounds-removed from the city center-but adjacent to it is also unique.

The new facility was developed with a combination of Federal Health Resources Services Administration (HRSA) funding secured by Congressman Walsh, the New York State Fair, the Department of Emergency Medicine at SUNY Upstate and the New York State Department of Health.

The facility's new purpose and design was spurred by the Upstate New York Center for Emergency Preparedness in the Department of Emergency Medicine at SUNY Upstate. The facility serves a variety of purposes:

o As a facility to provide emergency ambulatory services during major events held at the State Fairgrounds. These include the New York State Fair as well as other activities such as the boat show, Syracuse Nationals auto show, etc.

o As a training facility. Because the new facility can be used to mimic a full emergency department, it can be used as part of large-scale simulation exercises. By having such a facility removed from the normal healthcare setting, exercises can be undertaken without disruption of existing facilities. These training exercises will supplement an already strong and growing emergency preparedness training program under the Center for Emergency Preparedness.

o As an alternate emergency deparment. In the event that a local emergency department becomes inoperable, due to overwhelming patient demand, a natural disaster, such as fire or flood, or through an act of bioterrorism, the facility can serve as a surge or alternate emergency department location. This is especially critical in the case of radiologic or infectious disease events that require isolation. Patients can be treated without the likelihood of contamination of an entire hospital.

The facility is currently configured for 15 beds with four rooms that can serve as isolation rooms. It is also configured for multiple use purposes and can be quickly converted into a secure facility. There are several rooms that can be converted from general purpose to patient bed space. The current bed configuration can be altered to dramatically increase the number of patient beds to more than double the existing configuration.

The Upstate New York Center for Emergency Preparedness has its foundation in the Upstate Medical University Department of Emergency Medicine's proven expertise and experience in providing emergency preparedness on a daily basis. The institution's unique position as the sole specialty care and teaching medical facility in the region made it a perfect place to develop and execute the alternate ED concept.

Since the events of Sept. 11, 2001, the Department of Emergency Medicine has been involved in activities surrounding medical preparedness and response, through efforts in clinical service, community education, and research. The Upstate New York Center for Emergency Preparedness was initiated in 2002 with a primary goal "to ensure that the Central New York Region becomes the most prepared community in New York State and in the nation."