The importance of planning for possible Ebola cases was the focus Friday in Los Angeles of a second major educational session for healthcare workers.
“The session not only bolsters the safety of our healthcare workers, but also (the safety) of the communities they serve,” Dr. Patrick Courneya, executive director and chief medical officer for Kaiser Foundation Hospitals and Health Plan.
The session repeated previous demonstrations of donning and doffing personal protective equipment under updated recommendations issued on Oct. 20 by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.
Dr. Arjun Srinivasan, a captain in the U.S. Public Health Service and associate director for the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention's Healthcare Associated Infection Prevention Programs, stressed that ensuring the safety of healthcare personnel relies more on having a strategy that focuses on rapid identification, isolation and communication among various health partners of a potential case.
“Preventing the spread of Ebola requires a lot more than personal protective equipment,” Srinivasan said. “If you have great PPE in a bad healthcare system, you are not protected.”
The event was streamed live to 23 medical centers around the country. Last month, thousands of health workers participated in an Ebola safety education session in New York City hosted by the Healthcare Education Project, a collaborative effort by the Service Employees International Union Local 1199 and the Greater New York Hospital Association.
The Coalition of Kaiser Permanente Unions, along with the health system itself hosted Friday's event, along with the Partnership for Quality Care, a coalition of healthcare workers and providers that showed a live stream of the event on the organization's website.
The L.A. session differed slightly from the one conducted on the East Coast as it focused more on safety protocols when handling a suspected case in an emergency department or ambulatory setting.
Srinivasan noted that among the more than 400 suspected Ebola cases that the CDC has investigated, the only one that was confirmed—the case of Thomas Eric Duncan—was found in an emergency department.
The cases of two nurses who contracted Ebola while caring for a sick patient at a Dallas hospital has heightened many healthcare workers' concerns, and they have called for more stringent protocols to prevent more personnel from getting infected.
He acknowledged concerns by admitting his own apprehensiveness at first upon treating an Ebola patient, but said it was important not to allow fear to supersede from the mission of providing care when it's needed.
“Fear is real, and it's OK,” Srinivasan said. “But what we do as healthcare workers, is instead of taking that fear and running out the door, we arm ourselves with information, we do the job and we do it well.”
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