Would Hoosier hospitals be able to handle an Ebola outbreak?

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To everyone’s surprise, the once-tribal strain of Ebola has reached the American heartland. Just last week, a Texas healthcare professional flew to Cleveland from Dallas, only hours before coming down with a fever and a positive test result for the African-borne contagion.

According to the most recent CDC report, an estimated 375 people could have been exposed to the virus from workplace contact in Texas alone. What about the rest of the nation, and right here in our area?

While there have been no cases of Ebola in the state, local healthcare professionals said our hospitals are ready to care for patients in any case.

“Indiana University Health facilities across Indiana have experienced medical teams that are specially trained to handle and treat a wide variety of medical conditions, from the most common to the most complex,” said Joy Davis, communications manager for IU North, Saxony and Tipton hospitals. “We have robust plans in place for managing the Ebola virus, and are in regular contact with the CDC, Indiana State Dept. of Health and our healthcare colleagues nationwide to ensure we are following the latest recommendations and protocols to protect our patients, visitors and team members.”

Riverview Health said that proactive measures have been taken to properly screen, and if necessary, handle any cases of Ebola that may arise in the hospital.

“Riverview Health is following all the latest recommendations from the CDC and IHA and is keeping a close eye on any updates,” said Dr. Tracey Ikerd, Riverview Health director of infection control. “This includes training staff to ask questions regarding symptoms consistent with Ebola and recent travel to West Africa at registration and having appropriate processes and protective equipment in place, such as full-head covers, fluid impervious gowns, knee-high shoe covers, full-face covers and extended-length gloves suitable for double-gloving.”

In effort to also ensure safety among the healthcare team and Riverview Health staff, Ikerd said additional education specific to Ebola will take place this week.

“Training will take place in preparation for proper donning and removal of potentially contaminated protective equipment,” he said.

Gene Davis, R.N., and director of nursing and infection control at Witham Hospitals, said that it has been imperative for local health facilities to communicate with the CDC on a daily basis in order to monitor outbreaks and learn more about prevention.

“Well what we have been doing is of course following all of the events that are going on. We run on conference calls with the CDC and with the Indiana State Dept. of Health,” she said.

She noted that her staff has also begun to develop policies and procedures to handle Ebola.

“(This) is basically the CDC standards for taking care of these patients. We are developing screening tools so that we can screen patients, like in our emergency room if they’ve traveled outside the country, if they’ve had any fevers and things like that, and so trying to identify if there’s any type of patients that would be of concern,” Gene said.

Gene said that prevention and learning how to protect your self is key.

“If these patients then are identified then of course we will follow the CDC criteria and guidelines,” she said. “We would not necessarily go into a lock down but we would make sure that person was put into isolation and that that patient was kind of away from any other patients at the time in a location that would ensure that everyone else is safe.”

Attempts to reach Community Health Networks and St.Vincent hospitals were unsuccessful prior to press time.


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