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CNN BREAKING NEWS

Doctor Says Fire Scene Was Handled Well, Most R.I. Hospitals Have Received Victims.

Aired February 21, 2003 - 08:12   ET

THIS IS A RUSH TRANSCRIPT. THIS COPY MAY NOT BE IN ITS FINAL FORM AND MAY BE UPDATED.

PAULA ZAHN, CNN ANCHOR: Joining us now on the telephone, Dr. Bob Baute, who is the president of Kent Hospital and he's going to give us an idea of the status of some of these patients transported there last night.
Doctor Baute, thank you for joining us. Can you just give us an update on what you're seeing at the hospital this morning?

DR. BOB BAUTE, PRESIDENT, KENT HOSPITAL: Well, we had 52 patients brought to the hospital from the fire scene. Ultimately, 16 were admitted, with five now critical in the intensive care unit. They're on ventilators.

We airlifted four to Boston area burn centers and transferred another eight to Rhode Island Hospital, which is a trauma center in Rhode Island.

We discharged another group of patients from the emergency room after care and the emergency department.

ZAHN: And are those that you say are in critical condition this morning, what is the biggest risk they face right now?

BAUTE: Well, these patients suffered first-, second- and third- degree burns, ventilation injuries and also crush injuries from the falling and the trampling as those people attempted to flee the scene.

ZAHN: How quickly did these patients get to you last night?

BAUTE: I actually came to the hospital within about 20 minutes of the beginning of the fire, having heard about it on the 11 p.m. news. And I was still up. I immediately came to the hospital and patients had already arrived at the hospital within that time frame, extremely seriously burned patients.

And the emergency room, which was busy at the time, obviously became busier. We put in place our disaster plan very quickly and amassed a large number of staff, both from within and outside the hospital to help deal with this tragic event.

ZAHN: How much help did you get from outside the hospital last night?

BAUTE: Well, we -- in one sense, fortunately, it occurred at the change of shifts, so we were able to hold significant numbers of people as the night shift and nursing and other folks came on board. We also had a number of physicians -- I don't exactly have a count -- but I would say five or six to aid, additional physicians come to the hospital to participate in managing the patients there.

ZAHN: I know, Dr. Baute, you said some of the critically injured had to be transferred to burn wards in Boston, which aren't terribly far away. But give us your understanding of how many other patients might be treated in the Warwick area nearby this morning.

BAUTE: Well, we understand that a total of 160-some-odd patients were transported by rescues to the various hospitals around Rhode Island. And certainly, some of those went directly to Rhode Island Hospital. Virtually every hospital in Rhode Island, except Newport Hospital, received patients from this fire.

ZAHN: And how well equipped were some of these other hospitals to deal with this onslaught of patients?

BAUTE: Well, it depends, obviously, on the number that were sent to the other hospitals, most of which were somewhat smaller than we are. And every hospital which has a 24-hour emergency room has people capable to deal with some of these patients. But, you know, many of the hospitals ended up transferring some of the patients they received on to Boston.

ZAHN: As a member of the community, I'm sure you've heard, maybe, what the fire chief has said to day, at least 39 confirmed dead.

BAUTE: Yes.

ZAHN: All of those found dead at the club. He believes that number to go up, based on the fact, I guess, he believes that some of the folks transported to hospitals will not make it.

Just -- Just a personal reaction to what went so horribly wrong last night?

BAUTE: Well, I mean, I wasn't there, but I think that part of it was the crowded arena and people pushing to get through the exits that were available. Obviously -- obviously panicked. And the, I think the -- I actually went to the scene during the middle of the event to help do some triage at the request of one of the rescues. And they had done a fantastic job at the scene.

And the -- I think that it's just a very tragic event, one which will -- almost all of us will know somebody that was impacted in this fire. And I believe we don't know for sure yet, but there are some of our employees who had family members probably caught in this fire.

ZAHN: Well, that's what I want to ask you about, because we were just talking to Jack Russell, who is the lead singer of the band, who happens to be missing one of his group's guitarists, a man named Ty Longley. In terms of the patients at your hospital, have they all been identified this morning? And have you been able to make contact with the family members? BAUTE: All of the patients have been identified. I can't speak directly about whether we have specifically talked with all the family members. One of the things that we did was to collect lists of patients from the other hospitals in the state, so that we were able to interact with large numbers of people who came to the hospital, looking for their loved ones. And we also received many phone calls. So with those lists, we were able to help people find their family members.

But one of the tragic things was that you would get a call from someone who was looking for a family member and go through 10 pages of lists of names and not be able to find the name that, you know, matched who they were looking for.

ZAHN: Dr. Baute, I know you've got a lot to do. Just a final question about any family member or even someone like Jack Russell, who's trying to find someone who didn't have a piece of ID on them, what kind of advice do you have for those folks this morning? Who should they call?

BAUTE: Well, there is -- there is a statewide emergency number, which the emergency management agency put forth, which I believe is 401-6 -- I have it here.

ZAHN: I'll give you a second, because this is important. Or if not, we can get back to your office and get that number.

BAUTE: I might need to get you that number accurately. I don't remember it precisely -- oh, hold on. Here it is now. It's 401-462- 7111. And that's the statewide emergency management agency has established that number for victim information. And it said the family could call that number looking for information.

ZAHN: We have that number on the screen, and we'll keep that up to give desperate family members some hope here. Dr. Bob Baute, thank you very much for bringing us up to date on what's going on at your hospital, the other area hospitals as well.

And best of luck to you and your suffering community.

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