Ebola Requires More Than an Isolation Unit

by Admin on October 15, 2014

in News, Patients, Providers

There is far too much misinformation out there about the spread of Ebola for me to keep silent. As an observer of the health care system for most of my life (married to not one, but two physicians) I was, for example, mystified that Medecins Sans Frontieres (Doctors Without Borders) has been treating Ebola since 1976 and we’ve never heard of them getting sick. It’s similar to when I went to an “eye camp” in Bodh Gaya,Bihar, India where doctors had come every year for eight years and done hundreds of thousands of cataract operations on poor Indians in tents and outdoors on a dusty open field, and there hadn’t been a single infection.

No one has gotten sick in Nebraska, either. No one who treated Dr. Brantley and his fellow volunteer at Emory University in Georgia got sick. And no one had to deal with the terrible quarantines, the lack of air travel or appearance in public places, etc. Indeed, even the people who lived with Mr. Duncan have not gotten sick. And yet, two nurses in the same hospital have already gotten Ebola.

Why have the nurses at Texas Presbyterian gotten sick? And why are they being blamed for breaches in protocol? Do you think the nurses WANT to get sick? I’m sure they follow every rule they are given, if only because they want to protect their own lives.

I have a theory about this, which I’d like to share in order to become better informed by commenters in the know. My theory is that although isolation protocols may have been in place, the actual protocols for treating Ebola probably were not. The training and the supplies that medical staffs have who regularly treat these kinds of patients probably were not.

I got a text from a dear friend of mine this morning, a woman who spent three years as an ICU nurse in a county hospital. She was furious that nurses were being blamed. Here’s what she said:

There are many risky procedures that spray particles (intubation for example). Nurses at that hospital have said their PPE (personal protective gear) left exposed skin on the neck. Not sure anyone even knows how to better deal with this. It’s not the nurses’ fault that they don’t have the equipment or infrastructure to contain the disease- it’s the system. For example, Emory has cared for 5 sick patients and no healthcare workers have gotten sick. At Presbyterian, 2 have gotten sick from 1 patient. Emory has much more ability to care for Ebola in terms of prep and infrastructure. I’m certainly not defensive, but I really feel for fellow nurses in danger that don’t have adequate support. It’s not their fault as individuals that few places are prepared to deal with this. I’ve taken care of patients with serious superbugs (MRSA, VRE, etc) and nobody gets sick- Ebola is a different critter.

So for the CDC to have had its “we got this” attitude at the beginning was not only hasty, it was dangerous. I’m happy that the second nurse is being moved to Emory,

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