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R Adams Cowley Shock Trauma Ready For 'Worst Case' Scenario

BALTIMORE (WJZ) -- After a series of mass casualty incidents nationwide in recent years, doctors across the country have been practicing drill after drill as they anticipate an influx of patients at a moment's notice.

It's no different at R Adams Cowley Shock Trauma Center in Baltimore, where the chief physician told WJZ's Ava-Joye Burnett his staff is always ready for the worst case scenario, and there are certain features that set the facility apart.

The type of work done there is all in the name: Shock Trauma, named for a pioneer in the field of trauma care, sees the worst of the worst. It handles more than 7,000 patients with major injuries every year.

Physician-in-chief Dr. Thomas Scalea said the facility is unique because it's completely separate from the emergency room.

"We are completely focused on the care of the badly injured patient and we do it thousands of times a year," Dr. Scalea said. "You get pretty good if you do it 7,500 times a year, particularly if you do it in big bunches."

Mass shootings, bombings and other incidents in recent years have challenged the readiness of hospitals around the country. In 2013, more than 260 wounded patients flooded hospitals following the Boston Marathon bombings. Back in June, hospitals in Orlando were swamped after the Pulse night club shooting.

In light of those incidents, among others, hospitals have faced an increasing number of calls to stage drills to prepare for such scenarios. That's where Shock Trauma has an edge, according to Dr. Scalea, because his staff has had plenty of real life experience.

"On a busy Saturday, we will admit 35 people here and most often in bunches -- four, five, six, seven at a time," he said. "That's not unheard of. No, it's not 50, but seven is a pretty good warm-up."

Adding to Shock Trauma's crisis preparedness is the scale of the facility. Dr. Scalea said it has up to four times the number of trauma bays as other hospitals, and it's up to him and his staff to be ready for the unfortunate situation so many dread.

"We hope that we don't ever have to test this like they did in Orlando, but it isn't a a big stretch to think we are going to have to at some point," he said.

Just in the past few years, Shock Trauma has staged several drills, including one that called on staff to be ready to intake patients from a mass shooting.

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