The trusted source for
healthcare information and
One hospital’s experience with another deadly infectious disease revealed lessons for how hospitals can respond to Ebola, say two healthcare attorneys who helped that facility through the incident. The key is preparation.
Laura D. Seng, JD, partner with the law firm of Barnes & Thornburg in South Bend, IN, and Heather F. Delgado, JD, a partner with Barnes & Thornburg in Chicago, were part of the response team working with Community Hospital in Chicago when it treated the first patient in the United States with the potentially fatal Middle East Respiratory Syndrome (MERS). The patient recovered and was released from the hospital in May 2014.
Healthcare risk managers should participate in assessing the hospital’s planned response to an infectious disease such as MERS or Ebola, they say, and don’t shy away from concluding that your facility is not capable.
Seng says, "Many hospitals are not going to be prepared for a patient with Ebola because all the demands of caring for a patient like this the supplies needed, the isolation procedures, the training, the infectious waste disposal are incredibly resource-intensive, on just the chance that you might get an Ebola patient. The first thing to think about is whether you can handle these patients. Most hospitals have isolation rooms, but they might not have the antechambers necessary for donning and removal of protective equipment or enough staff for the buddy system in which staff watch each other and help with donning and removing the equipment."
The key lesson from the MERS incident is that hospital risk managers must plan their response before the patient shows up, Delgado says. Because Community Hospital had a response plan already, it was able to treat the patient with a minimum of disruption, she says.
"It really is the right time for risk managers to make sure they are up to date on all their training for infectious diseases and that all your policies and procedures are updated," Delgado says. "Drills are important too, just so people can practice what you expect them to do in this situation. Risk managers can play a big role in ensuring that, if an Ebola patient walks through your doors, you’re ready."
Laura D. Seng, JD, Barnes & Thornburg, South Bend, IN. Telephone: (574) 237-1129. Email: firstname.lastname@example.org.
Heather F. Delgado, JD, Barnes & Thornburg, Chicago. Telephone: (312) 338-5905. Email: email@example.com.