Hospital prepared for Ebola

Published 1:02 pm Saturday, October 18, 2014

The disease Ebola captured American attention when Thomas Duncan from Liberia died from the virus in a Dallas hospital on Oct. 8. The case is putting health care agencies on alert and making preparations should Ebola find its way to their doorsteps.

Kim Marks, interim CEO of Southampton Memorial Hospital, said the facility is ready with training and protocols. She made the following statement on Friday:

“Southampton Memorial Hospital is committed to creating a safe environment for the patients, employees, physicians and visitors who come to our hospital. We are following the detailed checklist for Ebola preparedness provided by the CDC, and monitoring all updates to this guidance. Our primary focus is preparation to appropriately identify, isolate, test and transfer if necessary. Training has been provided for emergency department staff, and screening protocols are posted for our clinicians’ use. We are using these screening guidelines with all patients who present to the emergency department with risk factors and symptoms that could be associated with Ebola.

“In the event that a patient has potential symptoms and risk factors for Ebola, the patient will be placed in isolation. Our hospital has a dedicated isolation room, and supplies of gowns, masks, face shields and gloves are already on site. We will work with local and state health departments and the CDC, and follow their guidance for treatment and arrange for the transfer of any patient with a confirmed case of Ebola to a hospital that specializes in the care of such infectious conditions.

“We understand the concerns related to Ebola and we want to reassure our community that we are prepared. While we believe the risk of an Ebola case remains low at this time, our dedicated physicians and nurses remain alert and ready to provide care, if necessary.”

On a larger level, Senators Tim Kaine and Mark Warner have reportedly asked William Hazel and Sean Connaughton for information on what they’re doing to make sure Virginia hospitals, and health professionals, are ready to deal with any patients who show signs of having Ebola.

Hazel is the Secretary of Health and Human Services, and Connaughton is the president and CEO of the Virginia Hospital and Healthcare Association.

In letters, the senators asked if the Centers for Disease Control or the National Institutes of Health could assist.

“Hospitals and providers are the first line of defense for the public, and Virginia is home to a robust public health infrastructure,” wrote Warner and Kaine in the letter to Connaughton. “While there have been no confirmed cases of Ebola in Virginia, it is important that the Commonwealth is fully prepared to address any potential public health need.”

To Hazel, they wrote:

“We were pleased to see Health Commissioner Marissa J. Levine’s testimony yesterday, and request details on how your department is making sure that all necessary information is readily available to hospitals, and how it is working with hospitals and providers to ensure they are fully trained and prepared in the event there is a case here.”

Kaine co-sponsored last month a resolution to recognize the threat of Ebola to both West Africa and the rest of the world.

Warner sent a letter earlier in October to Homeland Secretary Jeh Johnson and Health and Human Services Secretary Sylvia Burwell calling for strong measures, such as enhanced screenings at airports, as well as state and local health departments working more closely together. International airports such as Dulles have already started the checks. President Barack Obama appointed a person to take charge of all national efforts to improve agency cooperation and coordination, as Warner had proposed earlier this week.

Editor’s note: Information on the actions and words of Kaine and Warner came from Kaine’s office.