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. Last Updated: 07/27/2016

Doctors: Immediate Aid Could Have Saved Lives

ReutersRescuers rushing hostages out of the theater early Saturday. Doctors said many of them needed resuscitation on the spot.
More lives might have been saved if rescuers had tried to resuscitate hostages outside the theater rather than pile them into buses and ambulances and rush them to the hospital, doctors said.

However, the rescuers did everything possible given the circumstances, they said.

"For the Interior Ministry and rescue workers, a quick evacuation was the priority," Yury Pavlov, a doctor in the Health Ministry's Center for Medicine in Disaster, said by telephone Thursday. "The most important thing for doctors was to provide the hostages with first aid. The two things were very difficult to combine."

Doctors were not allowed to treat hostages inside the theater, particularly in the main hall where most of them were after the storming by special forces, he said.

Outside the theater, rescuers, fearing an explosion, scrambled to put hostages in vehicles and get them away from the site, he said. Also, there were so many unconscious bodies piling up that there was no time to try to resuscitate one and possibly lose 10 others, he said.

"We did everything that was feasible given the circumstances," he said.

Moscow Mayor Yury Luzhkov said Thursday that City Hall put 452 ambulance crews on alert ahead of the Saturday raid. However, there was a delay between the raid and the evacuation because the theater was blocked off by heavy trucks meant to shield surrounding buildings from a possible blast. Luzhkov said he personally ordered the trucks to clear the way to the theater's entrance for ambulances and buses.

Yury Chubarov, an anesthesiologist with 42 years of experience, said in an interview that the number of casualties -- there were at least 116 -- could have been cut by one-third if simple artificial ventilation procedures had been administered on the spot. He said the manually operated equipment to clear lungs is carried in ambulances and would have worked better than any antidote.

Health Minister Yury Shevchenko said Wednesday more than 1,000 doses of antidote were used in the rescue.

Gennady Meshcheryakov, head of the anesthesiology department at the Institute of Intensive Care, said lung ventilation could have saved more lives but the conditions under which the doctors were working were too pressing.

"It is very difficult to say. If there had been an explosion, the victims would have been in the thousands, not dozens or hundreds. This was taken into account in choosing the priority," he said.

Chubarov said some lives might have been lost because rescue workers and special forces officers took hostages out the theater by their hands and feet, with their heads thrown back -- which could have caused choking.

Most of the hostages were rushed to nearby City Hospital No. 13 instead of the better equipped Sklifosovsky hospital, which has a special toxicology ward, Novaya Gazeta reported.

Hospital No. 13 was so overloaded with new patients that nurses, cleaners and even patients were drafted to carry them in, the newspaper said.