Public Health Emergency - Leading a Nation Prepared
Author: Bobbie MacKenzie
State MRC Volunteer Coordinator
New Mexico Department of Health
Published Date: 3/11/2016 1:27:00 PM
Category: Observances; Exercises & Trainings;
The Annual Bataan Memorial Death March is tough. The 26.2 mile march through hot, rugged terrain lasts for 14 hours. Hundreds or even thousands of the 5,800 marchers are likely to need medical attention during the march – making this a “planned mass casualty” event. The New Mexico Medical Reserve Corps is an important part of the team that gets participants the help they need.
For the past five years the New Mexico Medical Reserve Corps (MRC) has worked with other volunteer disaster teams and the military to provide medical care during the Bataan Memorial Death March. As part of the event, MRC volunteers face some challenges of their own: they provide medical care in austere conditions, work long hours, and learn to work with new partners on the spot. In short, they face many of the same challenges that are common in disasters.
The Bataan Memorial Death March commemorates the World War II heroes from the Army, Army Air Corps, Navy and Marines who were captured and forced march to prisoner of war camps by Japanese forces. Some of the members seized were from the 200th Coast Artillery, New Mexico National Guard. Participants march in this event for many reasons: personal challenge, the spirit of competition, to honor a family member or particular veteran, or to honor those that were taken a prisoner of war by the Japanese in the Philippines.
And there are many reasons for MRC to participate in this event as well. For the New Mexico MRC, this is one of their best full-scale field exercises because of how closely it mirrors being deployed in a real world disaster response. The march is an excellent training opportunity for MRC volunteers to learn about collaboration, medical care in an austere environment, and integration under one incident command structure toward a common goal.
For the past several years the New Mexico MRC and the University of New Mexico University Health Emergency Response Team have collaborated with Colorado, Utah, Arizona and Texas to come together as one volunteer team to provide medical and logistical support in each of the ten medical tents along the 26.2 mile march. Knowing that we are a part of a bigger team has helped us develop respect for what each organization has to offer, foster positive attitudes and instill a strong working relationship that we can rely on during a public health emergency or disaster.
Just like in a disaster, there are a wide range of medical needs during the march. During past events, we have seen between 980 - 2,000 patients in a 14 hour period presenting with medical needs ranging from blister care or dehydration to orthopedic issues or even cardiac events. And just like in a disaster, it’s a very long day for our volunteers. Volunteers work late into the night and get up at 3:00 AM to start the next day.
The New Mexico MRC is in the final stages of gearing up for the 27th Annual Bataan Memorial Death March, which begins on March 20, 2016. During the event, MRC is looking forward to building on partnerships that we have made and adding to the lessons we’ve learned so that we can better protect health when we are called on to help.
Interested in finding a way that you can serve your community? Check out the Medical Reserve Corps and find a unit near you!
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