Purpose: To provide an insight into the challenges faced by the closest hospital to the Formosa Fun Coast Dust Explosion (FFCDE) disaster scene, and to examine how the hospital staff adapted to cope with the mass burn casualty (MBC) in their overcrowded emergency department (ED) after the disaster. Material and methods: The critical incident technique was used for the investigation. Data was gathered through in-depth individual interviews with 15 key participants in this event. The interview data was combined with the medical records of the FFCDE patients and admission logs to build a detailed timeline of ED workload. Process tracing analysis was used to evaluate how the ED and other units adapted to deal with actual and potential bottlenecks created by the patient surge. Results: Fifty-eight burn patients were treated and registered in approximately six hours while the ED managed 43 non-FFCDE patients. Forty-four patients with average total body surface area burn 51.3% were admitted. Twenty burn patients were intubated. The overwhelming demand created shortages primarily of clinicians, ED space, stretchers, ICU beds, and critical medical materials for burn care. Adaptive activities for the initial resuscitation are identified and synthesized into three typical adaptation patterns. These adaptations were never previously adopted in ED normal practices for daily surge nor in periodical exercises. The analysis revealed adaptation stemmed from the dynamic re-planning and coordination across roles and units and the anticipation of bottlenecks ahead. Conclusion: In the hospital closest to the FFCDE disaster scene, it caused an overwhelming demand in an already crowded, beyond-nominal-capacity ED. This study describes how the hospital mobilized and reconfigured response capacity to cope with overload, uncertainty, and time pressure. These findings support improving disaster planning and preparedness for all healthcare entities through organizational support for adaptation and routine practice coping with unexpected scenarios.
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