Monday, April 14, 2014

West fertilizer explosion survey omits dozens of injuries; could skew redrafting of rules, groups say

Volunteer fireman Eddie Hykel lost sight
in one eye from; the injury wasn't included
in the survey. (Nathan Hunsginer/DMN)
Saturday marked the one-year anniversary of the fertilizer plant explosion in West, Tex., that killed 14 and injured more than 300. In the year since the explosion the government has studied ways to improve regulations in storing chemicals. But health and public policy experts argue that a substandard survey on the number of injured will hamper the government's ability to make informed public safety decisions in creating the regulations, Sue Ambrose reports for The Dallas Morning News.

"They limited their survey to those treated at hospitals and urgent care clinics. They did not canvass private medical practices, where blast victims were also treated. Nor did they track problems that may have surfaced later, such as brain injuries, hearing loss and post-traumatic stress disorder," Amrbose writes. "State and local health officials say their survey was designed to record only acute—or immediately apparent—physical injuries from the blast."

Dr. Robert Haley, an epidemiologist at UT Southwestern Medical Center, told Ambrose, "We’re entering a debate over how much regulation is needed to prevent this kind of thing in the future and to balance that against other interests. Well, one of the interests that desperately needs to be represented in there is a full accounting of what the health effects are.”

Officials say 262 people were injured in the explosion, but the Morning News said that through phone calls it was easily able to find more people not included in the survey. "Using the Texas Medical Board’s registry, The News found 432 private-practice doctors within 60 miles of West who could have treated blast injuries," Ambrose writes. "There were an additional 28 neurologists and psychiatrists in the same area who could treat patients."

Not included in the survey was The West Oak Medical Clinic. Physician’s assistant Paula Snokhous "said the clinic saw about 40 patients who did not go to area hospitals," Ambrose writes. "About half of them had ringing in their ears or other hearing problems. Four or five had lacerations stitched or bandaged, and the rest had wounds cleaned, she said. About 30 other clinic patients were also treated at hospitals. Other patients visited the clinic for mental issues, and about 10 were referred for pyschological evaluations, she said; some were diagnosed with PTSD." (Read more)

No comments: