Mass emergencies, such as the Christchurch earthquakes, are
becoming more common internationally, and New Zealand should
give priority to planning for them, Dr Sultan Al-Shaqsi says.
The Christchurch earthquakes had been ''devastating'' and
emergency preparedness had to be ''a national priority'', he
Dr Al-Shaqsi is an Omani-born medical doctor who recently
became the first international student to graduate from the
University of Otago with MB ChB medical qualifications and a
PhD at the same graduation ceremony.
His PhD focused on a comparative study of acute care mass
emergency preparedness in New Zealand and the Sultanate of
Oman, in the Middle East.
Such ''mass emergencies''- whether triggered by earthquakes
in New Zealand or tropical cyclones in Oman - caused
''significant human and economic loss''.
Acute healthcare services were usually the first to respond
to mass emergencies. And a successful mass emergency response
was determined by the level of preparedness.
New Zealand had a ''well-established national strategy for
But there was ''an urgent need to integrate clinical
providers into planning for emergencies'', and this had not
always been done in regional emergency planning.
An extensive survey he had conducted of New Zealand doctors,
nurses and ambulance officers found 44.8% of participating
acute care providers had no training in mass emergencies
(59.2% in Oman).
And the survey also found that during an infectious disease
mass emergency, ''34% of acute care personnel were not
willing to report to work''. Other research suggested the
turnout would be higher than this, but his findings
highlighted the importance of emergency training.
And it was clear a much higher proportion of people who had
received such training felt more confident in dealing with
such scenarios and were more likely to come to work during
such an emergency, he said.
The Canterbury earthquakes had provided ''significant
lessons'' and the New Zealand healthcare system needed to
invest in mass emergency training.