Medical providers ready for Olympic health woes
July 16, 1996
Web posted at: 11:40 p.m. EDT
From Correspondent Andrew Holtz
ATLANTA (CNN) -- As the population of Atlanta swells with
Olympic visitors and athletes, the demand for medical care is
also on the increase.
That's why the organizers of the Olympic Games in Atlanta
have a medical plan that includes thousands of doctors,
nurses, paramedics, volunteers and others.
Olympic venues will be staffed around the clock by medical
personnel and volunteers. One of the largest visitor
attractions, the Centennial Olympic Park, will be staffed
morning, noon and night by some 400 people, mostly
"We take care of everything from the...heat-exhaustion
patients, which we are seeing quite a few of, to the most
severe cardiac and trauma patients," says Dr. Mark Perni, a
The volunteers, called "first responders," have had at least
40 hours of training and will be on the front lines, ready to
"We have had an episode of chest pains, [and] yesterday,
fainting. Part of it's been heat-related; part of it hasn't
been," says Lynn Page of the American Red Cross.
Medical planners also have prepared for the unthinkable,
studying the Oklahoma City bombing and holding disaster
drills to train emergency crews.
"It takes tremendous teamwork, but we have rehearsed in test
events," says Dr. John Cantwell of the Atlanta Committee for
the Olympic Games. "We have tried to select people who are
team players, and they will be up to the task."
Not everyone convinced
However, not everyone agrees that the plan is good enough.
Private ambulance operators say Olympic organizers have been
slow to take their advice. For instance, just three
ambulances are to be stationed at Centennial Park, compared
with 13 ambulances used at a recent Atlanta music festival.
But officials promise that special access lanes will allow
ambulances to cut through gridlocked traffic.
"I think it'll be a challenge for all the providers to
accommodate the level of demand that we may see, and a lot of
that demand is not known yet," says Michael Baird of Atlanta
Local ambulance companies are donating hundreds of thousands
of dollars' worth of services and equipment, even though some
operators say they felt pressured to make donations in order
to maintain long-term business ties.
Yet despite some grumbling, they say differences with
Olympic organizers are being worked out.
"ACOG sees that adjustments need to be made in some areas,
and when we see the need, change is being made right then and
there," says Baird.
Whatever the problem, the medical staff, volunteers,
ambulance services and emergency crews of the Olympic Games
are ready to respond to everything and anything -- from a
major medical crisis to a minor scrape.
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