Neither the earthquake nor the was ever seriously expected to occur in Thailand. The catastrophe on December 26, 2004 was a tremendous blow to Thailand, its neighboring countries, and the entire world. At 07.58 AM in the morning of December 26, 2004, there was an earthquake with a magnitude of 9.0 Richter scale off the western coast of Sumatra. The quake caused a tremor throughout the region.
At 08.30 AM, Phuket and its neighboring provinces were faced with the destructive power of Mother nature: the Tsunami.
The executive board of the hospital followed up the news of the earthquake and its sequel closely. Then at about 9am when the news of giant waves causing damage to the coastal area arrived, the hospital declared the emergency plan under the code name Fan Si Thong. Fan Si Thong was a code designed and known by the hospital staff meaning that immediate recruit would be needed. Following the declaration of this code name, the hospital staff were ready half an hour before the first victim arrived.
Immediately after the declaration of Fan Si Thong, the EMS ambulances rushed to the coastal area to rescue victims. Minutes later, the ER team was ready for influx of victims. The IPD team made room for incoming patients. The evacuation team set up a transit camp at the airport.
The post mortem team spent time in identifying corpses psychiatric team helped depressed and anxious victims. Department of Preventive and Social Medicine had a close watch for any spread of infectious disease. Moreover the wound care team did an excellent job in coping with contaminated wound. A War Room was set up every morning to solve and plan.
The number of Tsunami patients attended at this hospital was 1,229. Out of these patients 57% were Thais , The rest were foreigners. Foreign patients were from more Than 40 countries Most of them were from Sweden , German , England , Finland , France China and Hongkong. 70 % of the patients needed only wound sutures ,dressing and discharged home. Another 30 % needed admission , because of drowning, fracture of bones, infected wounds. Some unfornated patients undergone amputation , abdominal and head surgery about 45 cases had serious wound infection due to Proteus , Klebsiella and Pseudomonase infection. 196 major operations were performed in 138 patients which included amputation of legs , Brain surgery, Abdominal surgery , tendons repair and orthopaedie surgery and many more on debridement of severe contaminated wounds.
The last case of victims receiving treatment in the hospital was reported at the end of February. 45% of the patients returned home in Thailand, 22% returned to other countries, and 6 were sent to Bangkok and private hospitals for further management. 9 of the patients died ; 4 being foreigners and the remaining 5 being Thai citizens. 2 of the patients died within 24 hours of arriving at the hospital; due to their critical conditions.
The causes of deaths came from septicemia, serious wound infections, and drowning. A large percentage of the deaths were caused by drowning, since the sea water entered the victims lungs and caused aspirated pneumonia.
14 C-130 planes from Royal Thai Airforce were used to transfer 418 patients to Bangkok. We had also provide care to 617 transit patients at the airport .
The hospital provided free internet access and phone calls to its patients, and developed the website www.vachiraphuket.go.th to report the situation and any new information to the public. There had been about 4 million visitors to the website in four weeks. Volunteers numbered more than 1000; including physicians, nurses, dentists, pharmacists, interpreters, guides, young pupils, university students, and other members of the public that came to the hospital to help. The hospital would like to thank all of its volunteers for their great contributions and support.
The rising success of the Vachira residents in Phuket is due to the administrators preparation for such a disaster. Even before the day of December 26, 2004, the hospital went through training in the case that a serious accident might occur. The hospital also exercised other various operations, and gave the Phuket Vachira residents a sense of strong teamwork in such activities as the Vachira Star contest. The work environment of the Vachira community includes flexibility and free decision-making that we have come to be very proud of. Even though the hospital has had some problems in the past (i.e. not enough or unreliable work resources, hand tools, durable goods for aiding health; limited number of patient rooms, limited work skills in certain areas such as corpse identification and foreign language capabilities), every team within the hospital is qualified to work in an area outside of its own.
It is also true that everything will be worked out over time, but many of the dangers that have been caused by this disaster still exist. Preparations will be needed in the case that such a catastrophe ever occurs again. Vital tools that the hospital is going to need to use for such preparation are an EMS system (both at the disaster area and in the hospital), a translator system, a registration system, rapid communication, accommodation, and food for its patients and volunteers. We have to find out the best measure about the rescue system so that the safety of life can be guaranteed in this area.
After the occurrence of the tsunami of December 26, 2004, the hospital is going to need to reconsider its plan of action and upgrade the team so that we can face and handle this incident more effectively in the future.
Its not too late for every unit to find out a suitable measure for their own unit. With this experience, the hospital will learn how to develop manpower and teamwork.
With our best wishes, hopefully you will be safe from unexpected disaster. And finally, we give our utmost sympathy to all the victims.