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U.S. Department of Health and Human Services

HPP story: West Texas: 2013

On April 17, 2013, a fertilizer plant exploded in West, Texas. Hundreds of residents and responders were injured, testing the community’s ability to handle a surge in demand for medical services. Immediately, community and state response agencies put medical surge plans – local and regional – into action.

These plans called for receiving hospitals to be able to expanded immediate bed availability in order to handle a 20 percent increase in the number of patients. While many patients received immediate medical care at the explosion site, more than 300 patients had to be treated at local hospitals. More than 250 who were treated and released; another 58 patients were admitted, and nearly 50 patients delayed seeking care only to visit a local hospital in the days following the explosion.

Ninety-six percent of these patients were seen at Hillcrest Baptist Medical Center, a fully-accredited, 396-bed acute care facility in Waco, Texas, which includes a Level II Trauma Center; Providence Health Center, a 301-bed acute care medical center in Waco, Texas; and Hill Regional Hospital, a 116-bed acute care facility in Hillsboro, Texas.

After the disaster, these hospitals reported that they could have surged beyond their 20 percent goal, thanks to the planning, training and exercises funded by the Hospital Preparedness Program that they had done over the years and thanks to the coalition they are forming in the region.

If the hospitals had been overwhelmed, state assets were prepared to back them up with ambulance buses and a 32-bed Mobile Medical Unit. Funded as state-wide investments through HPP, the buses and mobile medical unit were on the road toward West immediately after the explosion.

“Our preparedness programs and deployable medical assets were well tested through this real-world disaster and proved to be effective and essential,” said Bruce Clements, director of the Texas Department of State Health Services’ Community Preparedness Section.

  • This page last reviewed: November 20, 2013