By Carolyn Lee
The Imperial Republican
With stories of Ebola and its victims in the news across the nation, it’s not unreasonable for emergency managers to make preparations for potential Ebola cases in the U.S.
“We want to reassure the public that your hospitals are diligently planning with the latest Centers for Disease Control (CDC) guidelines in handling an Ebola patient,” said Heidi Wheeler of Imperial, Emergency Response Coordinator for Southwest Nebraska Public Health Department (SWNPHD).
“Our hospitals have excellent staff and are all currently reviewing and practicing isolation and personal protection procedures,” she said.
Chase is one of the eight counties in the SWNPHD.
Patient Safety Coordinator for Chase County Community Hospital (CCCH) Angella Herbert said, “We are confident that staff members are knowledgeable of infection procedures, not only for Ebola but for any infectious disease.”
She continued, “Our concern is not only for a possible patient but to protect our area citizens.”
Each hospital in SWNPHD has an Infection Control Coordinator who is a vital component of emergency planning and its incident command team.
Every hospital participates with emergency drills conducted by West Central Medical Response System, County Emergency Managers, SWNPHD and The Center for Preparedness Education, which is a joint program through Creighton School of Medicine and the University of Nebraska Medical Center.
Herbert said CCCH recently drilled using decontamination suits. “We have also reviewed with staff the use of personal protection equipment,” she said.
CCCH had already instituted an annual decontamination drill, Herbert noted, prior to the requirement by the Center of Medicaid Services (CMS).
Herbert said a personal protection equipment kit has been placed in the emergency room. It contains face shields, masks, gowns, plastic aprons, boots and surgical hats with neck coverage.
“CCCH wants the public to be confident in our preparation,” said CEO Steve Lewis.
“Our staff has been getting daily updates from the Nebraska Hospital Association, American Hospital Association and CDC.”
He said through these the staff has been updated on the latest protocol on how to handle a patient with symptoms if one arrives at the hospital or clinic.
Patients who call in or arrive at CCCH will be asked if they have a fever, headache or flu-like symptoms. The will also be asked where they have traveled and about possible exposure to people who have traveled to a West African country.
Persons can help protect themselves with these core principles: wash hands, cover a cough, stay home with a fever, get a flu shot, don’t touch body fluids of people who are sick and disinfect frequently- used surfaces.
Chase County Emergency Manager Duane Dreiling is also involved in the process of preparing for Ebola protection.
As Emergency Manager, he works with law enforcement, medical, government and rescue professionals, leading and implementing disaster plans in an emergency situation.
Dreiling said in this case, regarding CCCH, “Anything they need, they contact me and I’ll find the resources to help them.”
That includes providing a decontamination trailer or working with FEMA or CDC, he said.