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Government to N.J. hospitals ‘Be ready’ to safely handle an Ebola patient

Beth Fitzgerald//October 15, 2014

Government to N.J. hospitals ‘Be ready’ to safely handle an Ebola patient

Beth Fitzgerald//October 15, 2014

To prepare for the possibility that an Ebola case might appear in New Jersey, federal and state authorities “are telling all acute care hospitals to be ready to receive, isolate and care for possible Ebola patients, and that’s what our hospitals and their staffs are preparing for,” New Jersey Hospital Association spokeswoman Kerry…Kelly did not respond directly to statements by Richard Ridge, chief executive of the New Jersey State Nurses Association, who has publicly urged that if any Ebola cases appear in New Jersey, the patient should be transferred out of state, to one of the four bio-containment units around the country. The association is the professional organization of the state’s 118,000 registered nurses.

Kelly said NJHA has joined with New Jersey Commissioner of Health Mary O’Dowd “in asking each of our 72 acute care hospitals to conduct drills on Ebola. Those drills are taking place in hospital emergency rooms because any of them could be presented with a suspected Ebola case. Our hospitals’ job is to be ready to care for all patients. We’ll continue to do so until those public health authorities provide a different directive.”

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The New Jersey Department of Health is working closely with the federal Centers for Disease Control and Prevention on the Ebola issue, according to Donna Leusner, spokeswoman for the state health department.

“But, at this time, the New Jersey Department of Health expects all New Jersey hospitals to be prepared to identify, isolate and treat an Ebola patient,” Leusner said. “The department has asked all acute care hospitals to conduct emergency department drills by Friday to test their emergency department’s process for promptly identifying and isolating suspected Ebola cases.”

The state’s largest nurses union, Health Professionals and Allied Employees, urged the state health department to “designate one hospital in N.J. to receive confirmed Ebola patients, minimizing potential exposure, and assuring that patients are cared for by well-trained expert teams.”

The union said, however, that this “would not obviate the need for hospitals to train staff in recognizing suspected Ebola infection, to train all staff with potential exposure in proper precautions and to provide proper protective equipment.”

HPAE said it has posted a “toolkit” of information on its website, at www.hpae.org/political/health_safety/ebola, to assist nurses, health care workers and hospitals in addressing gaps in Ebola prevention programs. HPAE also said it will sponsor forums to help educate caregivers and foster cooperation with hospitals, agencies and elected officials.

Ann Twomey, president of HPAE, said in a statement, “New Jersey’s nurses and health care workers stand ready to meet the needs of our patients and communities in minimizing risk and exposure due to the Ebola virus.”

In addition to asking the state health department to designate one hospital to treat Ebola cases, the union called on the department to:

  • Establish regular meetings with hospitals, providers, health care workers and stakeholder groups to discuss and develop state guidelines and trainings, and to keep updated on CDC guidelines and protocols;
  • Develop and provide guidelines for hospitals on policies for the safety of patients, visitors and staff;
  • Enforce hospital compliance with updated CDC guidelines and appropriate protective equipment;
  • Provide training for health care workers, and require training by hospitals;
  • Require that hospital policies provide wages and benefits for workers put on leave as a result of possible exposure.

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