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Tore Vikström...

...professor and head of the Centre for Teaching & Research in Disaster Medicine and Traumatology (KMC) in Linköping.

Bild på Tore Vikström

For ten years you’ve been collaborating closely with Japan on disaster medicine. Are you in Japan now?

“No, but I was there as recently as a month ago and spoke at a conference on disaster medicine. People from Japan have also been here in Linköping a number of times for training. We’ve developed a teaching practise that builds on connecting disaster medicine to everyday health care. Previously, disaster medicine was something separate and special, which meant that it was easy to forget important knowledge between rounds. Now, disaster medicine will also be present as a mind set in everyday work. This teaching practice, like the simulation system we developed here at KMC, is used throughout Japan and not just there but in several countries in Europe, as well as the US, China, Australia, and New Zealand.”

You’re a professor in disaster medicine and traumatology, and you’re head of the Centre for Teaching & Research in Disaster Medicine and Traumatology. What is it you do?

“We pursue research and development in the field of disaster medicine. Besides that, we train a large range of personnel categories from paramedics to governmental policy makers to doctor and nursing programmes. This is a national centre, which means that we conduct quite a lot of training and exercises with other county councils and agencies, yet we work equally with foreign countries. This is probably why our operations are better known internationally than locally.”

Occasionally you take part when catastrophes occur?

“Yes, following the tsunami in Thailand, and the evacuation following the bombing of Beirut in 2006. We’ve also been collaborating with the Balkans for 15 years. We learn a lot ourselves while we contribute. The needs are different and it’s important that help comes on the country’s terms.”

Can you describe the post-catastrophe work?

“There are namely four phases, even though there are deep divisions and the phases overlap one another to various degrees depending on the country affected and what’s happened. The first phase deals with saving lives immediately; the second is the search for survivors; the third is arranging heat, food, water and shelter. The fourth phase is logistics and transport. Health care and disaster medicine are part of each stage. Military or rescue services are not enough. Being involved in these cases, it is common that we do not work in our usual profession; it’s a matter of jumping in where you’re needed most - like bringing water or feeding small children, for instance.”

What lessons can you draw from what happened in Japan?

“It’s tremendously important to be prepared for major events, and health care and coordinating agencies need to be educated and trained beforehand. When something happens, it’s too late. It’s also important that health care, rescue services, the police, and other agencies speak the same language so that no misunderstandings arise. It’s a matter of having the functions in order and drilling regularly. There are common denominators in all rescue work, but which country is affected also plays a large role. A rich country can be rebuilt quickly, but an impoverished country like Haiti needs a lot of help.”

How do you view the risk for catastrophes in Sweden?

“We know that major events will happen, even in Sweden. Normal health care is most strained when something happens, which is why it’s so important that disaster medicine is implemented in daily work. For instance, in 1998 I was in Gothenburg when the dance club fire occurred. When these things happen, it’s a matter of having well-trained and prepared staff at every level.”

Eva Bergstedt 2011-03-30

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Last updated: 2017-02-13