FIU-FAST (Florida Advanced Surgical Transport) team set up a 10-bed critical care field hospital on Miami Beach for Memorial Day weekend, marking the first time the highly trained, critical care medical response team partnered with local first responders for this type of event.
“The opportunity to deploy our team to work in support of Miami Beach Fire Rescue was an excellent training opportunity for the FIU-FAST team,” said team commander Steve Williams.
The 24-person team deployed for the two-day event included a trauma surgeon, an anesthesiologist, two emergency physicians, two pediatric emergency nurses, family physicians, paramedics and communications specialists. All are highly experienced volunteers – health care professionals who work at local hospitals and emergency agencies, and are trained to respond to disasters of all types.
“The FIU-FAST team’s participation was invaluable,” said Juan Mestas, deputy chief of operations, Miami Beach Fire Department. “They supported our force, keeping our units from making unnecessary transports and allowing them to be available sooner.”
This was an important collaboration especially considering the huge crowds. An estimated 200,000 people descended on South Beach over the holiday weekend. Because Urban Beach Week coincided with the National Salute to America’s Heroes Air and Sea Show this year, there were concerns traffic congestion could significantly delay ground transport of patients in an emergency; additionally, the lack of a suitable helicopter landing zone near the air show could have made air transport difficult.
Between Saturday and Sunday, the team treated 26 patients, most suffering from heat-related syncope (fainting). They were able to diagnose and treat most of the patients on the scene; only three had to be transported to the hospital.
“Providing medical care actually on the beach provided those visitors who needed medical attention with very timely skilled medical intervention, all of which would not have been possible without the support of FIU,” Williams said.
Dr. Rebecca Toonkel, a specialist in critical care medicine, is one of three faculty members from FIU Herbert Wertheim College of Medicine who gave up part of her holiday weekend to volunteer. It was her first deployment with the team.
“Working on the FIU-FAST team was an amazing experience. The level of skill, professionalism and collegiality displayed by each person out there was truly remarkable. I look forward to working with this terrific group of people for years to come,” Toonkel said.