L+M, Backus getting ready for Ebola, just in case

Both Lawrence + Memorial Hospital in New London and The William W. Backus Hospital in Norwich have taken steps to prepare in case a patient with the Ebola virus comes for care, hospital officials said Thursday.

Infectious disease and emergency preparedness experts at the hospitals said that such a scenario is unlikely but that the hospitals are ready just in case.

“We’re ready with emergency kits and we’re aware of the signs and symptoms,” said Dr. Joseph Gadbaw, chief of infectious disease and department of medicine at L+M. “We’re ready with travel questions.”

Gadbaw said the focus with staff has been on reviewing symptoms and “thinking about (Ebola) as a possible diagnosis.”

Staff of the emergency department, environmental services, laboratory and other areas at Backus have received “refresher and specific training” about recognizing and responding to a patient with Ebola, the deadly disease that has infected 5,500 and killed at least 2,500 people in West Africa in recent months.

Patrick Turek, regional manager of emergency preparedness at Backus, said that his department and the hospital’s infection control nurse lead the training and inventory reviews to ensure the hospital has a stockpile of protective equipment for health care workers. Staff have also been instructed to ask specific questions about patients’ recent travel to Ebola-infected areas, Turek said.

The Ebola preparedness efforts at Backus and L+M mirror those taking place at hospitals around the state. The state Department of Public Health said Thursday that it has asked hospitals to ensure they can detect a patient with Ebola, protect health care workers so they can safely care for patients, and respond appropriately. Hospitals have also been asked to complete a detailed checklist for Ebola preparedness and return it to the state health department later this month.

Gov. Dannel P. Malloy said in a statement that the state health department has been closely monitoring the Ebola epidemic and has sent regular updates and guidance to medical professionals, local health directors, hospitals and emergency medical service providers.

His statement came two days after the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention confirmed the first case of Ebola diagnosed in the United States in a man who had traveled to Dallas, Texas, from Liberia. The man developed symptoms about four days after arriving in the United States on Sept. 20. Malloy said that although the risk of an Ebola outbreak in the United States is very low, state health officials have been working to prepare in case a patient with Ebola is identified in Connecticut.

Dr. Jewell Mullen, state public health commissioner, said hospitals in the state are prepared.

“Any acute care hospital in the state, by following well-defined, standard infection control measures and with the use of proper personal protection equipment, is capable of caring for an Ebola patient,” she said. “We would not need to designate particular hospitals to care for a patient who is infected.”

She added that she believes the patient in Texas does not mean Connecticut patients are at any higher risk.

“We have expected that given the size of the West African epidemic, there would eventually be someone diagnosed in our country,” she said.

j.benson@theday.com

Twitter: @BensonJudy

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