OKC Hospital Administrators Speak Out After Ebola Scare

Friday, October 10th 2014, 6:27 pm
By: News 9

An Ebola scare in Oklahoma City prompted the healthcare industry to take a closer look out at its preparedness, Friday.

Deaconess Hospital monitored a patient overnight who had Ebola-like symptoms.

Hospital administrators released a statement, which reads in part, "Following a careful and thorough review of the patient's symptoms, risk factors and test results, the Department of Health and the CDC have determined that the patient has not been exposed to Ebola."

Even with that good news, the incident pointed to the need for hospitals to be prepared for Ebola cases.

Deaconess was apparently ready.

In light of the incident, local hospitals offered demonstrations of the procedures for possible Ebola patients.

James DeHaven, disaster specialist for Integris Hospitals began devising a plan five weeks ago.

Integris Southwest Medical Center is contracted with the Center for Disease Control (CDC) to accept any infectious patients from the airport.

So, DeHaven said hospital staff is trained and ready.

When a patient with a suspected case of the Ebola virus walks into the emergency room, the screening process begins immediately.

“They [staff] will ask, ‘Have you traveled outside of the states in 21 days,'” said DeHaven. “If the answer is yes, at that point, they will be put into isolation.”

The hospital is currently equipped to handle five patients at a time but could handle more if need be.

"We could actually take an entire floor and isolate them," Dehaven said each floor could hold up to 30 patients. "We have prepared for it, but we just hope it stays at one or two," he added.

10/10/14 Related Story: Oklahoma Health Department Holds Ebola Discussion

Oklahoma health officials are not worried about an outbreak.

The CDC has recommended guidelines for hospitals.

If the screening process determines the patient may have Ebola, that triggers other measures, hazmat suits must be worn by all hospital workers potentially coming into contact with the patient.

This would make it virtually impossible for anyone coming into contact with the patient to be infected.

The staff, covered head-to-toe, will then assess the symptoms of the patient and consider other risk exposures, like direct contact with someone who is ill and had been in West Africa within 21 days.

Because the disease is transferred by bodily fluids, hospitals are using solidifier that immediately turns liquid waste into a solid mass.

DeHaven said it helps minimize the chances of the virus being spread.

Also, all waste remains in the room until transferred to a proper disposal site.

"The chances of contracting the virus is just almost zero, maybe not zero, but pretty close to zero," DeHaven said.

He said all seven hospitals owned by Integris are following the same protocol and will report possible cases to the state health department.

State Epidemiologist Dr. Kristy Bradley said health officials will consider testing a patient for Ebola who is exhibiting symptoms, reports being in an affected area of the country in the previous 21 days from on-set of symptoms or had direct contact with someone who was ill and had been in that country, particularly if they were a health care worker who could have been exposure for caring for an Ebola patient.

As soon as a patient may be suspect for Ebola, health officials will contact a state epidemiologist who will be available 24/7 for a consultation and screening.

The public will only be notified of "true, suspected cases of Ebola," not every patient who is screened for Ebola.