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|Disaster specialist sees no need to dash to New
York to help.
He says victims of building disasters die or walk away.
Shawn Ohler, Journal Staff Writer
Wednesday, September 12, 2001
Kim Solez, M.D.
Minutes after jetliners destroyed New York's World Trade Center and crippled the Pentagon, dozens of physicians across the United States sought advice from Edmonton's Dr. Kim Solez.
Solez, a kidney specialist who is considered one of the world's foremost experts on treating disaster victims, said his guidance was simple, but sad.
"The answer is not a very happy answer. I told them there is really no need in general for outside physician help. Because, in an event like this, most of the people affected, die," Solez said Tuesday afternoon.
"And during the past few hours, that has been the situation my colleagues in New York and Washington are seeing in their hospitals. They're not overwhelmed. It's not like they're seeing thousands of people. The thousands are the thousands that perished within a few minutes of the event, or ran away screaming under their own power."
However, late Tuesday afternoon there were reports that survivors trapped in the rubble of the World Trade Center were using cellphones to call their loved ones.
Solez has opened renal units in Third World countries, investigated mass poisonings of children in Haiti and Nigeria, and been dubbed the Quake Doctor for a plan he developed to save earthquake survivors from crush syndrome.
Crush syndrome is the complex chain of medical events that leads to kidney failure in victims injured by falling buildings.
He said the type of program he set up in the late 1980s to fly physicians into earthquakes or other mass disasters is not really needed in this instance.
"Besides, the idea of flying anyone anywhere is rather problematic at this point," he said, noting the blanket airport closure affecting North American air travellers.
He said a crush of newly arrived physicians, in fact, can sometimes compound problems at a disaster site, not ease them.
During the 1988 Armenia earthquake, for example, planeloads of doctors, dialysis machines and other equipment arrived in the wake of the catastrophe.
But it arrived much too late and the influx clogged what remained of the transportation network, slowing response times to the original disaster.
Solez said he suspects hospitals in New York and Washington were sufficiently prepared Tuesday.
"If you look at the number of physicians and hospitals and high-tech emergency rooms and ICU rooms per capita, New York and Washington are right up at the top," he said
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