EUREKA- As Ebola fears rise across the country with a second Dallas nurse diagnosed with the virus this week, here at home health facilities are tirelessly working to prepare the North Coast for a potential patient.
“I don't want to play catch up, I want to be ready,” said Fieldbrook resident Ruth Ray. “Now I’m not the expert, I don't know what that means as far as what we should have in place, I just want to know we do have a plan, we do have a protocol.”
Ray’s concerns echo dozens on the North Coast. Are we prepared for Ebola? Local health officials say yes.
“The CDC has told hospitals: you need to be prepared and that's what we're doing,” said Leslie Broomall, communications director at St. Joseph Hospital. “We are getting prepared that we could have a potential Ebola patient walk into our doors, tomorrow, tonight, right now.”
That preparation calls for protocol the moment a patient walks through the hospital doors.
“We’ve posted signage so that when people come in,” Broomall said. “If you walk in to our emergency department at St. Joseph hospital right now, when you register you're going to be asked two questions: do you have a fever and have you traveled outside of the country? If you've answered yes to either of those, you're going to be sent to a triage room and if you exhibit any specific symptoms you could be sent to a negative air pressure room.”
Immediately separated from other waiting patients, those who display symptoms are then treated in isolation by trained staff.
“We’ve identified a room in the emergency department that we would have any suspected Ebola patients in, we have identified a room in out intensive care unit that we would have a patient go there. We are stocking it full of supplies in accordance with CDC guidelines,” Broomall said. “We are doing training and education for staff specifically along the lines of how to put on and take off properly personal protective equipment. So that is very crucial that that's our focus right now.”
Broomall says the hospital is prepared to treat a patient for an extended amount of time. The Humboldt County Department of Health and Human Services says they are preparing as well, readying their lab to process and send Ebola specimen to the state and CDC for testing. DHHS is also in charge of tracking and monitoring those who come in contact with an Ebola patient.
“It will be our job to find everyone who's possibly been exposed, follow up with them to make sure they're aware of the symptoms and what to do if they do develop symptoms,” said Eric Gordon, public health nurse with the Humboldt County Department of Health and Human Services.
And local airports are also following a protocol to identify travelers with symptoms and report them to emergency crews. With those directives in place, health officials assure, we are prepared for Ebola on the North Coast.