VCU Medical Center treats cyclists, prepares for next year

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When the 2014 USA Cycling Collegiate Road National Championship came to town this weekend, Virginia Commonwealth University Medical Center immersed itself in the event and played a critical supporting role in its operation.

In addition to the hospital’s regular commitment as Central Virginia’s only Level 1 trauma center, VCU Medical Center was the medical sponsor and sole health care provider for the three days of racing, which meant ensuring the availability of medical services for roughly 400 athletes and thousands of spectators.

VCU Medical Center personnel were positioned on-site in an athlete medical tent, in spectator areas and in cars following the cyclists along the courses, which varied each day of the event and covered areas such as East Broad Street, Monument Avenue, Manchester and Church Hill.

Physicians, nurses and hospital administrators also stood ready in the VCU Medical Center Emergency Department and hospital command center to lead and ensure care in any event, cycling-related or otherwise.

This year’s race was a trial run for next year when the UCI Road World Championships will bring an estimated 450,000 spectators and 1,500 athletes to Richmond for nine days. VCU Medical Center is in charge of medical care for that event as well.

“It has been important because we’ve been able to make certain we have a system and operations in place to ensure that we can take care of the athletes and still maintain operations back at the medical center,” said Robin Manke manager of emergency management at VCU Medical Center.

Manke led a team of nearly 30 physicians, medical residents, physical therapists, nurses and volunteers this year. She was also in charge of coordinating with Richmond Ambulance Authority, various law enforcement agencies and event organizers.

“It has to be a totally coordinated effort between us and first responders and emergency services,” said Harinder Dhindsa, M.D., chief of emergency services operations at VCU Medical Center. “And we’re fortunate because we have a very good working relationship with those entities. This is a natural extension for us.”

Although the scale was smaller, medical coverage for this year’s race was an accurate preview for next year.

The medical team treated more than 50 people in connection with the races over three days, mostly at the athlete medical tent and for abrasions, sprains and contusions. They also handed out water, first-aid supplies and sunscreen in spectator areas.

“Next year our team will be quite a bit larger,” Manke said. “It will be a 24-hour offsite medical operation that will include personnel ranging from physicians to athletic trainers to physical and massage therapists.  We’ll also have a larger amount of spectator care stations and increased staffing of specialized areas on the medical center campus.”

The size and comprehensiveness of the VCU Medical Center qualifies it to provide care on such a large scale.

“We’re unique in that we have nearly 600 attending physicians that are all part of the same physician group,” Dhindsa said. “We are one group across many subspecialties. There really is an advantage to our connectivity.”

Event organizers have noticed that advantage too.

“The Medical Center’s willingness to help this year in preparation for next year has been a critical part of the overall success,” said Tim Miller, chief operating officer of Richmond 2015, the organizing body for the races this year and next. “There has been no question about them jumping in with both feet and doing whatever it takes.”


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