US Open medical staff ready for dehydration, twisted ankles or worse

The news so far from the first-aid tents at the U.S. Open at Chambers Bay is that there is none. And officials want it to stay that way.

“I hope we’re able to remain invisible,” said Bob Stoecker, director of first-aid services. “But we’re ready for whatever happens.”

Stoecker, along with 115 credentialed nurses and physicians from MultiCare Health System, are working in three tents at the weeklong golf championship, in addition to their regular jobs. The United States Golf Association approached the local health care provider in late 2013 to draft a medical services plan.

Stoecker said MultiCare staff are thrilled to help at the U.S. Open, so much so that some volunteers were turned away.

“We could’ve staffed a dozen tents,” he said.

Staff members in the tents Monday treated a total of 79 patients, MultiCare spokeswoman Marce Edwards said. Numbers for Tuesday were not available.

People were mainly treated for minor scrapes and cuts, said Tammi Lead, who coordinates nurses’ shifts and works some herself. Overall, the tents haven’t been very busy, she said.

“It seems to go in waves,” Lead said. “The greatest volume we’ve seen are people coming for water and sunscreen.”

But that could change as sellout crowds arrive for championship play Thursday through Sunday.

The first-aid tents are located in Spectator Square, near holes 12 and 14, and near the entrance closest to Cirque Drive West.

Each is staffed with at least one physician and two nurses, as well as staff who specialize in orthopedic care in anticipation of foot and ankle injuries from the rough Chambers Bay terrain. Some spectators fell on the fescue-covered sand dunes of the links-style course during the 2010 U.S. Amateur held at Chambers Bay.

First responders also are part of the equation. All emergency care on the course and everywhere else outside the first-aid tents is coordinated by West Pierce Fire & Rescue.

Sheri Badger, the county’s emergency management spokeswoman, is the point person for the U.S. Open joint operations center. She said West Pierce has six roaming teams of first responders — three on bikes and three on golf carts with backboards.

Chambers Bay has its own dispatch center with a direct phone line for spectators to call in case of emergency.

West Pierce is responsible for transporting patients to the first-aid tents and to local urgent care centers or hospitals if necessary, Badger said.

Preventive measures also are part of the medical plan. The tents offer sunscreen and free water stations inside each first-aid tent, for spectators who want to stay hydrated without paying $2.50 for bottled water at concession areas.

As the week progresses, Stoecker said he anticipates heat-related illnesses (think dehydration) and orthopedic injuries (twisted ankles and knees) will be most prevalent. Cardiac problems also could surface.

The location and shape of the golf course — a “west-facing sand bowl” — will amplify the intensity of the high temperatures, Stoecker said.

People should stay hydrated, protect their skin and watch for uneven surfaces as they’re walking, he added. And people should be mindful of their physical limits.

“It all seems uphill around here,” he said.

The goal for the first-aid tents ahead of the event was to maintain a well-oiled machine.

MultiCare, the local health care provider that touts its interconnected network of hospitals, clinics and urgent-care facilities, has developed the first electronic medical monitoring system at a U.S. Open, Stoecker said.

Inventories of supplies and prescriptions are electronically tracked, making it easier for them to be restocked daily. Patient information for both locals and out-of-towners who visit the first-aid tents is tracked and can be accessed later by their doctors.

“We are plugged into the MultiCare database,” Stoecker said. “I can do everything on site here as I could do at the emergency department at Tacoma General.”

Despite all the preparations, Stoecker hopes it will be moot.

“Hopefully nobody’s going to see us, but we are prepared for anything that walks through the door,” he said.

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