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Orlando officials share lessons learned from Pulse shooting

200-plus public relations health care professionals attend conference

A makeshift memorial for the victims of the Pulse Nightclub shooting, near Orlando Regional Medical Center down the street from the crime scene, June 15, 2016 in Orlando, Florida.
A makeshift memorial for the victims of the Pulse Nightclub shooting, near Orlando Regional Medical Center down the street from the crime scene, June 15, 2016 in Orlando, Florida. (Getty Images)

LAKE BUENA VISTA, Fla. – More than 200 public relations health care professionals from across the nation listened intently to City of Orlando and Orlando Health representatives explaining the lessons they learned after the Pulse nightclub massacre.

Orlando Health's Kena Lewis explained how the harrowing hours after the tragedy unfolded.

She said the early morning of June 12 started off slowly. Only half of the ER beds were taken and the staff, from doctors to nurses, were getting ready for their 3 a.m. shift change, but everything changed in an instant.

Lewis said the first patient came in at 2:14 a.m. and the stream of wounded didn't stop.

Ultimately 44 victims would make it through the emergency room doors, with nine dying before ever reaching an operating room.

But of those who did make it into surgery, Lewis explained, nobody else died.

"Ever since the Pulse tragedy, I and our administrators through the hospital, physicians at the hospital and surgeons at the hospital have been traveling around the country speaking to our counterparts at other hospitals letting them know this could happen to you. Be prepared," Lewis said.

However, Lewis told the crowd nothing could really prepare anyone for the horror that would continue to unfold and she spoke of some of the lessons Orlando Health learned.

Lessons like knowing who on the staff spoke Spanish and could to talk to the nearly 250 friends and family who crammed in the emergency room, anxiously waiting for any news of their loved ones.

She also learned that in a mass casualty situation, certain patient privacy rules (HIPAA) didn't apply.

City of Orlando spokeswoman Heather Fagan said the city, while on the phone with the U.S. president's office, got approval from the top for Orlando Health to release how many patients they had, how many surgeries they did and when the patients would be released.

Lessons learned in Orlando are now being shared with the world.

"In this day and age it could happen anywhere," Lewis said. "Our No. 1 message is you must be prepared. You have to practice it, you have to drill it, you have to have a process in place so you know what to do when and if this happens."
 


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