URI mock smallpox clinic ‘vaccinates’ 285 patients

KINGSTON, R.I. — November 19, 2004 — During a two-hour bioterrorism clinic exercise operated today in response to a simulated smallpox outbreak in England, the University of Rhode Island “vaccinated” 285 patient volunteers.

An efficiency team said it took the average “patient” between 5 and 6 minutes to go through the clinic. The clinic ran in Keaney Gym from 12:30 to 2:30 p.m.

When patients entered the clinic, they filled out a patient information form, had their temperature taken at an assessment station and then they moved to an interview area. If a “patient” was suffering from a simulated illness, rash or fever, they were referred for evaluation by a nurse practitioner or physician.

The clinic followed a morning workshop at URI for medical professionals on smallpox. About 120 professionals, including those from the state departments of health in Rhode Island, Massachusetts, Connecticut, Vermont and New Jersey, participated. Representatives from Rhode Island College, the Community College of Rhode Island, Bryant University and the University of Massachusetts-Memorial Hospital, also attended. The National Nursing and the National Pharmacy Response Teams also participated in the workshop.

Many of the professionals from the morning workshop helped out as clinic volunteers, including 25 registered nurses from The Miriam Hospital who are earning their bachelors’ degrees through a special URI program.

In addition, 16 students in the nursing course, bioterroism preparation, 8 students in the URI Army ROTC program and 6 students from URI’s Clearinghouse for

Volunteers participated. Campus Police and Security also provided six volunteers. Art Tuveson, URI’s assistant athletic director for recreational services and athletic facilities, provided full venue and logistics support.

Robert J. Marshall Jr., assistant director of the state Department of Health for public health affairs, went through the clinic and observed the operations.

“Everyone was very helpful, and I asked some very special questions,” Marshall said. “I thought everyone was very professional. URI has done a terrific job today.”

“The system worked well,” said URI Professor Thomas Mather, director of the URI Center for Vector Borne Disease who headed today’s clinic effort. “Being able to get our patients through in no more than 6 minutes is a credit to our clinic volunteers.

“I would say the state Department of Health was pleased with our clinic volunteer effort and the outstanding venue that we provide for this type of Homeland Security preparedness.”

Dr. Fred Procopio, URI director of medical services, said 15 “patients” who were identified by screeners as having simulated “illnesses,” “fevers” or other “medical conditions” were diverted from the main clinic to a secondary treatment and assessment area.

“We learned a great deal today,” Procopio said. “We learned how to better deal with people who present with anxiety and those who present with an illness,” he said.

Nancy Doyle-Moss, URI clinical nurse instructor and co-director of the clinic, said the volunteers responded to last spring’s clinic critique and improved operation of this fall’s exercise. “It went great, the organization was outstanding and my nursing volunteers were professional throughout,” said Doyle-Moss.

The University was asked by the state Department of Health to conduct another bioterrorism response clinic exercise this fall after having successfully run the largest university-based simulated clinic in the nation last spring in response to a mock anthrax incident.