Ebola Preparedness in the Bassett Healthcare Network

October 1, 2014

The Ebola Preparedness Team for the Bassett Healthcare Network has been meeting daily to coordinate the network’s response, mobilize resources, and develop plans and review protocols to manage suspected cases in the event a patient presents at a network facility with possible symptoms of Ebola. The team is led by Dr. Charles Hyman, Chief of Medicine and an infectious disease specialist; Bertine McKenna, Ph.D., Chief Operating Officer; Ruth Blackman, infection prevention specialist and senior director of Quality Resources, and Brinton Muller, the network’s manager of Emergency Preparedness.

“There is understandably considerable concern among the general public about the Ebola outbreak,” notes Dr. Hyman. “However, it’s important to recognize that the work we’re doing now isn’t foreign to our hospital staff. Infection prevention protocols are a priority and part of our every day processes. There is heightened awareness because of the Ebola virus and it is important to be prepared, but we shouldn’t let that overshadow other health risks prevalent in Upstate New York right now, including influenza and Enterovirus D68.” Visit www.cdc.gov for tips on flu and EV-D68 prevention.

Dr.McKenna pointed out that hospitals around the region are sharing their approaches and developing systems of care within their communities to keep patients, employees and communities safe and well informed.

Last week, New York State’s Acting Commissioner of Health issued an order detailing the state’s requirements of hospitals for Ebola preparedness. Dr. Hyman answers the following questions about Bassett’s response.

Frequently Asked Questions

Q. What steps has Bassett been taking to be prepared for handling Ebola patients?

A: We continue to monitor international and national developments and follow guidance from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) and the New York State Health Department (NYSDOH). As you can imagine, this is a dynamic situation that is evolving on a daily basis; we meet daily to review new developments, strategize our response and assure we are as prepared as possible across the Bassett Healthcare Network.

Q: Are you conducting drills to test staff response?

A: Yes. Drills are an important part of our Ebola preparedness work. The things we need to be concerned with include identification and separation from other people, and use of basic personal protective equipment (PPE). So the drills will include testing staff that work in patient registration, triage, inpatient, outpatient and emergency department settings on travel history screening and the handling of a patient who presents with possible Ebola symptoms. We are also providing additional training of staff on the proper donning and removal of PPE, the transport and isolation of a possible Ebola patient and more.

Q. What lessons are being learned from the drills and other preparations?

A: Hospitals are required to conduct a number of emergency preparedness drills throughout the year to test not only infectious disease response, but preparedness for things like mass casualty incidents and major weather events. Every exercise provides additional learning and helps us hardwire, as much as possible, an effective response. Collaboration, team work and communication are vital to a successful response. Our Ebola response drills have gone well, but some of the processes specific to this virus are new and so we will continue to drill in all of our health care settings – registration, emergency department and inpatient and outpatient.

Q: What’s next given the order last week issued by the Acting Commissioner of Health?

A: The requirements detailed in the commissioner’s order are stringent and ambitious. Fortunately, Bassett had already begun much of the work that is required for Ebola preparedness. Most important is the education of not only staff, but the public and our patients. We have thousands of employees throughout our network at six hospitals and dozens of health centers and we will continue to drill our Ebola response.

Q: What can the public do?

A: There is shared responsibility when it comes to public health threats like the Ebola outbreak. If you come to a Bassett Healthcare Network inpatient or outpatient facility, expect to be asked about your travel history and symptoms of illness. But each of us also bears responsibility for volunteering this information if you have traveled to West Africa, an area where Ebola has been confirmed, or been in close contact with someone who was exposed to Ebola. I would also encourage people interested in the latest Ebola information to visit the CDC’s website for accurate, up-to-date information such as new cases, travel restrictions, travel alerts, and more. The CDC website also has the latest information on the prevalence and prevention of influenza and EV-D68.

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