Ebola checklist prompts review

Published 10:12 pm Thursday, September 18, 2014

For Bon Secours Health Center at Harbour View, an Ebola preparedness checklist circulated to U.S. hospitals by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention is a recitation of measures already in place to deal with infectious diseases, Medical Director Carl Wentzel said.

“The processes and procedures that are outlined are some of what we do here, and hospitals across the country do, to treat other infectious diseases,” Wentzel said.

The checklist warns hospital managers that, while the CDC has no knowledge of any Ebola cases in America aside from a handful of Americans who were medically evacuated to stateside facilities from West Africa, “now is the time to prepare.”

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“Hospitals should review infection control policies and procedures and incorporate plans for administrative, environmental, and communication measures, as well as personal protective equipment and training and education,” the CDC advises.

“Hospitals should also define the individual work practices that will be required to detect the introduction of a patient with EVD or other emerging infectious diseases, prevent spread, and manage the impact on patients, the hospital, and staff.”

Wentzel said the checklist is a “reminder and a good opportunity to review our current policies and procedures, especially coming up to flu season. Even without Ebola, we would be reviewing policies and procedures here.”

“It is not a whole bunch of new information, but it’s a great review and a good practice,” he said.

But in some instances, according to Wentzel, the CDC circular has alerted hospital officials to issues that otherwise might have escaped attention, such as how laboratory specimens would be handled.

“If any infectious blood sample shows up in the lab, what are the procedures for that?” Wentzel said.

“If somebody comes in here that we think has the flu, we have processes and procedures to isolate that patient and care for them. But we don’t necessarily notify the department of health immediately.

“If somebody came in suspected of Ebola, we’d still follow internal practices; but we would put a component in to notify the CDC and the (state) health department — that kind of thing.”

The Emergency Management Team for the North Suffolk hospital and Maryview in Portsmouth formally reviewed the checklist when it met Thursday, according to Bon Secours spokeswoman Lynne Zultanky. “It’s a multidisciplinary team that crosses both locations,” Zultanky said.

The Ebola virus, with a death rate of up to 90 percent, transmits via contact with bodily fluids of infected patients. The current outbreak, which is spreading in Guinea, Liberia, Sierra Leone, Nigeria and Senegal, has killed at least 2,400 people, about half of those who have been infected.

With no cases in the United States, Wentzel said the CDC checklist is not a cause for alarm. “You kind of have to keep it in perspective,” he said.

“I want to review our processes and be prepared, but I don’t want (it) to overshadow other health issues coming up. We are on the cusp of flu season now; it’s a nice coincidence (that) it’s a review of our processes and procedures for infectious diseases.”

The CDC is Obici Hospital owner and operator Sentara’s “primary source” of information for preparing for Ebola or any other infectious disease, spokesman Dale Gauding said.

“We look to their documentation regularly for preparing protocols, and that is the case here,” he said.

The Ebola checklist is being used in the education of staff throughout Sentara hospitals and facilities, he said.

Each of Sentara’s hospitals has its own infection prevention specialist, Gauding added. “Their primary job is to make sure our protocols to prevent hospital-acquired infections are observed,” he said, but they also help make decisions when a “community-acquired” infection enters a hospital.

Flu and enterovirus, a serious respiratory illness impacting children that has appeared in Richmond, are receiving more attention than Ebola, Gauding said.

“I think it’s safe to say Ebola isn’t front and center right now, while enterovirus and flu are,” he said.