Joplin tornado sparks call for physician volunteers

They can sign up online to treat those injured in Missouri or assist in any future disaster.

By Bob Cook — Posted May 24, 2011

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The American Medical Association and the Missouri State Medical Assn. are encouraging physicians to volunteer in the aftermath of a tornado that struck Joplin, Mo., on May 22, killing at least 116 people and injuring at least 400 in the city of 50,000.

Six people were killed -- five patients and one visitor -- at St. John's Regional Medical Center, one of the city's two hospitals. St. John's had heavy damage and was shut down.

Freeman Health, the other hospital, reported having limited power and no phone lines. It was only accepting patients with critical injuries. The American Red Cross said that about 75% of the city had damage, much of it catastrophic.

The medical associations are encouraging physicians from Missouri to register with the state's Dept. of Health and Senior Services to assist tornado victims. Physicians from Missouri can register online (link).

Physicians from outside Missouri can register at the Dept. of Health and Human Services' Public Health Emergency website (link).

Patients from St. John's were transferred to hospitals outside Joplin. Physicians from neighboring communities came immediately after the storm to help set up makeshift trauma centers.

Tom Holloway, executive vice president of the Missouri State Medical Assn., said May 24 that officials in Joplin reported a quick outpouring of physician volunteers. As of that date, Holloway said the city, which was "neck-deep in search and rescue," had enough physicians on hand. However, he said more physicians might be called to help in coming days, so anyone signing up should "stand by and be well-rested."

The Missouri and HHS sites are not limited to recruiting volunteers to aid in the aftermath of the Joplin tornado. The sponsoring organizations could contact physicians for any major disaster for which additional doctors are needed.

National Weather Service forecasters were predicting another tornado outbreak for the evening of May 24 in the eastern half of Oklahoma, southern Kansas and portions of northwest Arkansas and southwest Missouri -- including Joplin.

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