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No local burn unit concerns, explanation

Posted at 9:01 PM, Aug 26, 2020
and last updated 2020-08-27 00:38:36-04

CORPUS CHRISTI, Texas — She may live in the Houston-area right now, but with two brothers who work at a local refinery, Corpus Christi-native Laura Rangel was disturbed by Friday's deadly explosion and fire at the port.

"I mean it just takes a matter of seconds for something to happen,” Rangel said.

She, her daughter, and her 95-year-old mother evacuated to Corpus Christi last night ahead of Hurricane Laura's expected landfall near Houston.

Now back in her hometown, and in light of the port incident, Rangel is voicing her concern about the entire Coastal Bend region not having a burn unit at any of its hospitals.

“I think there is a need for (a local burn unit)," she said. "And I think it’s really important that the city really try to see what they can do about getting a burn unit out here in Corpus.”

Six workers who were on the barge that hit a propane pipeline sparking Friday's explosion were rushed to two local hospitals.

"You had these folks -- four of whom arrived (at the hospital) within six minutes (of each other)," Christus Spohn President and Chief Medical Officer Dr. Osbert Blow said. "And (the emergency department doctors and nurses) were able to stabilize and resuscitate them and determine their next level of care need."

For three of the four patients who arrived at Christus Spohn Shoreline, that next level of care could only be provided at a certified burn unit.

There are five of those facilities in Texas with the closest being at San Antonio Medical Center -- 35 minutes away by medical helicopter.

Doctor Blow says that puts the Coastal Bend closer to a burn unit than many other Texas communities. And with those facilities required to treat a certain number of patients in order to maintain their accreditation with the American Burn Center, Blow says the current system -- stabilize a burn patient here and then transfer -- is a good alternative to having a local burn unit.

"The question is, if you had a group here that specialized in burn care, how would they keep up their proficiency unless you redirected all of the burn care to that one center?” Blow asked.

Blow says the agreements local hospitals have with medical helicopter and ambulance companies ensure burn victims can get to burn units for the treatment they need.

But it's that travel time from here to there that Rangel doesn't approve of.

“Not when seconds count, no," she said. "Thirty-five minutes -- I mean, just within seconds anything can happen. So within that 35 minutes it could be life or death."