Are Hospitals in the United States Prepared for Ebola?

The Dallas nurse who contracted Ebola while caring for Thomas Eric Duncan, the first known Ebola patient in the United States, is doing better. Nina Pham contracted Ebola while working at Texas Health Presbyterian Hospital in the intensive care unit. The hospital is under scrutiny as allegations of insufficient sanitation practices emerge in the wake of Pham’s diagnosis. One of the most blatant mistakes the hospital made was telling Thomas Eric Duncan to go home when he initially came to the hospital complaining of symptoms.

A nurse who took Duncan’s information noted that Duncan was from a “virus zone,” however, the hospital claimed a software error led to the Liberian man’s discharge. Duncan returned two days later, and ultimately died from the Ebola virus. By that time, dozens of other people had been exposed the deadly disease.

The Texas Presbyterian Hospital has been penalized by the federal government for seven categories of care in the emergency room including excessive wait times, and people having to return after having been discharged. Although they had lost some federal funding for three years, they had recently rebounded.


The World Health Organization reported that there could be up to 10,000 new Ebola cases each week in Sierra Leone and Guinea Liberia by year’s end. The question for many Americans is, are hospitals in the United States prepared to deal with cases in the United States? Many front line health care workers say no.

The Centers for Disease Control says that most hospital rooms can work for isolation purposes, but that there has to be a set of procedures in place to ensure workers do not fall victim to the highly contagious virus. Training staff is crucial to avoid spreading the virus throughout the country. This would require practice, drills and constant hospital wide monitoring. Doctors and nurses are not the only ones who need to fear contracting the Ebola virus when working with infected patients. Hospital staff who deal with waste, or washing sheets and other materials may also fall victim to the illness. Contaminated blood can live on surfaces for an hour or more according to some experts.


Some non-union nurses are saying that there were no protocols in place while Thomas Eric Duncan was being treated. Specifically they said that nurses were allowed to leave the infected man's room without following any sanitation procedures. The Centers for Disease Control have said that they did not act quickly enough to ensure procedures were in place to stop the spread of Ebola from the initial patient.

If hospitals are to avoid spreading the Ebola virus, the federal government needs to step in and ensure they have adequate training in place for their employees, and that procedures are being strictly followed. The Ebola cases at Texas Presbyterian have proven that simple measures such as masks and protective gear are not enough to avoid contracting Ebola.

1 comment:

  1. Clear and concise, well written. Should make people think.


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