Ebola Preparedness at Brigham and Women’s Hospital

October 31, 2014 Brigham and Women's Hospital

We're conducting extensive training to prepare for the unlikely arrival of a patient with Ebola at one of our sites.

Ebola continues to be a public health concern. As of this posting, no Ebola cases have been reported in Massachusetts; however, to ensure the safety of our patients and our staff, clinical leaders at Brigham and Women’s Hospital (BWH) and Brigham and Women’s Faulkner Hospital (BWFH) are conducting extensive training and preparation for the unlikely arrival of a patient with Ebola at one of our sites.

Eric Goralnick, MD, Medical Director of Emergency Preparedness, and Deborah Yokoe, MD, Hospital Epidemiologist and Medical Director of Infection Control, describe our Ebola preparedness plans.

Who will care for a patient with Ebola at our hospitals?

We are training a team of individuals to care for patients who are hospitalized with suspected Ebola. Our goal is to provide the best care for the patient in an environment that supports the safety of staff, other patients, and visitors.

What does Ebola preparedness training at our hospitals and outpatient locations include?

Hands-on training for specialized team members who would care for a suspected Ebola patient includes practice putting on, using, and removing personal protective equipment (PPE). Our procedures for putting on and removing PPE – called “donning and doffing” – are similar to the procedures used at the specialty patient bio-containment units at Emory University Hospital and the Nebraska Medical Center, and are consistent with the most stringent Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) recommendations. Team members are also practicing how to deal with other scenarios they could encounter in treating an Ebola patient, such as how to move patients safely to specialized treatment rooms, handling bodily fluids of suspected Ebola patients, and properly disposing of materials used in the care of Ebola patients. Simulations, drills, and training exercises will be ongoing. This specialized team will remain in place and will continue to train even after the threat from the current Ebola outbreak subsides so that we’re prepared to handle potential threats from other emerging infectious diseases or other emergency situations that would require additional safeguards, such as a chemical or biological attacks.

We are also educating staff and standardizing practices in all areas where a patient may present with Ebola symptoms, including our ambulatory and urgent care sites, and admitting and procedural areas. Our employees are being educated about screening procedures to identify suspected Ebola cases as early as possible, isolating suspected Ebola patients, and calling for expert assistance and guidance on their care.

Additionally, all employees are receiving continuous information about the latest plans and response efforts through a serious of ongoing emails, Town Hall meetings, and updates to our intranet.

How were our Ebola preparedness plans created?

Our plans were created based on the experience of the specialty patient bio-containment units at Emory University Hospital and the Nebraska Medical Center. The plans we have in place are consistent with the most stringent recommendations issued by the CDC and Massachusetts Department of Public Health. This is a fluid situation and we will continue to consult with both of these agencies so that our plans reflect the best and most current information available.

What will happen if a patient with suspected Ebola infection arrives at one of our hospitals or outpatient locations?

Our strategy for managing patients who present with suspected Ebola infection is:

  1. IDENTIFY a suspected Ebola patient early by asking all patients coming to any point of access about recent travel to the West African countries where there is ongoing spread of Ebola (currently Sierra Leone, Guinea, and Liberia) and about symptoms that can be seen with Ebola infection, including fever, headache, muscle pain, vomiting, diarrhea, abdominal pain, or unexplained bleeding.
  2. ISOLATE suspected patients quickly.
  3. CALL our specially trained team to respond immediately.

What should I do if I have questions about Ebola?

You can find the most current guidance about Ebola from the CDC, Massachusetts Department of Public Health, and Boston Public Health Commission:

If you have additional questions or concerns you should contact your primary care physician.

Watch a WCVB-5 news video to see our specialized team members participate in drills on treating a patient with Ebola: http://www.wcvb.com/health/only-on-5-the-fight-against-ebola-from-the-patients-point-of-view/29268682.


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