Rural Ky. hospitals make sure they are ready for Ebola

Rural hospitals in Kentucky are making sure they are prepared in the event they get a patient with the Ebola virus, Bill Estep reports for the Lexington Herald-Leader.

The risk of Ebola coming to rural Kentucky is low and there have been no cases in the state, according to officials of the state Department of Public Health, but rural hospitals are getting ready just in case, Estep reports.

It’s not known where a patient might enter the health care system, so every hospital must be prepared, State Health Commissioner Stephanie Mayfield, told Estep.

Hospital officials all over the state have told Estep that they are making sure they are prepared in case they get an Ebola patient, saying they are reporting up-to-date daily information on dealing with Ebola to their employees; staying apprised of what the state health department and the federal Centers for Disease Control recommend; updating patient-screening processes to help determine the risk of Ebola, reviewing isolation procedures; taking stock of protective gear; and providing staff education.

“The protocol for rural hospitals would be to put an Ebola patient in isolation, then contact the local or state health department for guidance on whether to transfer the patient,” Joe Murrell, chief executive officer at the 25-bed Wayne County Hospital in Monticello, told Estep, because “most rural hospitals don’t have the resources to treat an Ebola patient for a long period.”

But is this level of preparation enough?

Health care workers continue to be concerned because the two nurses in Dallas who were caring for the infected man from Liberia who has since died, and now have Ebola, “reportedly got the virus despite wearing protective gear,” Estep writes.

Initially Dr. Tom Frieden, director of the CDC, said any hospital could safely take care of Ebola, Kimberly Leonard reports for U.S. News & World Report. “You need a private room with a private bathroom, and rigorous, meticulous training and materials to make sure that care is done safely so caregivers aren’t at risk,” he said, Leonard writes.

But Linda Greene, an infection prevention manager at Highland Hospital in Rochester, N.Y., and a member of the Professionals in Infection Control and Epidemiology Regulatory Review Panel, told Leonard, “Despite the best efforts, we do know in many hospitals that infection-prevention control measures are under-resourced,” and “There may be need for even more specialization than we initially thought.”

But Greene goes on to say that despite these challenges,”Every hospital, however, should be able to screen and identify a patient at risk and immediately put them into isolation as necessary and do the initial triage, Leonard reports.

This is what Kentucky hospitals seem to be doing, despite concerns of some that it might not be enough.

Kevin Kavanagh, a Somerset physician and board member of Health Watch USA, told Estep that there are still “unanswered questions” about care for patients with Ebola, citing “his understanding that the CDC still doesn’t know how the Dallas nurses got infected despite wearing protective gear” and “what plans hospitals have to dispose of the medical waste” and the “extent of the knowledge about how the disease spreads.”

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