What it takes to make all hospitals Ebola-ready

Sarah Gardner Oct 15, 2014
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What it takes to make all hospitals Ebola-ready

Sarah Gardner Oct 15, 2014
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The largest nurse organization in the country, National Nurses United, is asking President Obama to take executive action and mandate “uniform, national standards” at all U.S. hospitals to help protect healthcare workers confronting Ebola.

“We know that without these mandates to health care facilities we are putting registered nurses, physicians and other healthcare workers at extreme risk,” the letter says. “They are our first line of defense. We would not send soldiers to the battlefield without armor and weapons.”

The group says those standards should include protective equipment like Hazmat suits and hands-on training to protect nurses and other hospital workers, even at the smallest of hospitals. And there are 5,000 community hospitals in the U.S.

Dr. Dennis Maki, a disease control expert at the University of Wisconsin-Madison, says it takes at least half a day to train people in the protective garb alone. “I’ve just gone through Ebola training in my own hospital for putting the garb on and off this week, and I can tell you that’s a very complex undertaking.”

Dr. Ashish Jha,  director of the Harvard Global Health Institute,  says proper Ebola training and equipment at every hospital in the U.S. will probably cost in the tens, if not hundreds, of millions of dollars. But not every hospital worker needs in-depth training.

“I think every hospital person certainly needs to know something basic about isolation,” Jha says.  “And then probably every hospital needs a small number of staff who can stabilize and manage that patient for the short run.”

Jha and Maki say it’s unreasonable to expect that small community hospitals be able to care for Ebola patients long-term. Large medical centers have more staff and resources to safely care for them, they say.  

The CDC says it is reaching out to hospitals to help them prepare for Ebola cases. The agency is investigating exactly how two healthcare workers at Texas Health Presbyterian Hospital in Dallas contracted the disease.


Graphic by Shea Huffman & Tony Wagner/Marketplace

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