New York Hospitals prep for possible Ebola patients

In lieu of the high-profile events related to Ebola in Dallas and elsewhere, hospitals in New York are prepping themselves with drills, replete with fake patients testing ER workers, the Wall Street Journal reports. After Texas Health Presbyterian Hospital patient Thomas Eric Duncan died, hospitals seemed to have taken sharp notice, taking extra steps to […]

In lieu of the high-profile events related to Ebola in Dallas and elsewhere, hospitals in New York are prepping themselves with drills, replete with fake patients testing ER workers, the Wall Street Journal reports.

After Texas Health Presbyterian Hospital patient Thomas Eric Duncan died, hospitals seemed to have taken sharp notice, taking extra steps to identify and safely isolate any potential patient with the virus.

The Dallas hospital initially faulted its EHR system, saying that it didn’t indicate Duncan’s recent travel history. But it later reversed that statement. 

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One simple protocol should be adhered to – has the patient traveled recently and to where? New York hospitals, public and private, aren’t taking any chances given the amount of travelers the city gets.

“If a patient does not get identified early, you have what happened in Dallas,” Dr. Ross Wilson, chief medical officer of the New York City Health and Hospitals Corporation, told the Journal. “The first thing is that you get more people in the community in contact with Ebola. The second thing is that you can increase the risk to health-care workers.”

New York Mayor Bill de Blasio on Monday similarly address the issue, saying the city has a “much more aggressive and coherent game plan” to respond to any potential Ebola patient.

The effort has taken place across all 11 of the city’s public ER s, with trained hospital staff pretending to suffer from fever, headaches and abdominal pain. Upon reporting those symptoms, a nurse is then prompted to ask about travel to West Africa, specifically Sierra Leone, Guinea and Libera, where the outbreak began and has been most devastating.

If the answer is yes, emergency protocol kicks in. From WSJ:

Health-care workers would put on protective equipment and the patient would be isolated, said Dr. Wilson. Over the next 45 minutes or so, staff, still unaware of the pretense, process the patient as if he or she were really sick.

At some point, said Dr. Wilson, a doctor reveals that the patient is part of a drill, after which senior medical staff take time to review what happened and fine-tune their protocols. The response to the training has been “very positive,” said Dr. Wilson. “We’re getting it right with pretty much every step.”

Participating hospitals include NYU Langone Medical Center, Montefiore Medical Center in the Bronx and the North Shore-LIJ Health System, which includes 16 regional hospitals.

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