Markey and Portman Introduce Legislation to Fund Domestic “Ebola Treatment Hubs”

Hospitals can voluntarily seek hub designation to provide specialized & isolated care for Ebola patients; legislation responds to limitations on current available beds & ensures U.S. hospitals are prepared for next outbreak

 

WASHINGTON (November 19, 2014) – Senators Edward J. Markey (D-Mass.) and Rob Portman (R-Ohio) today introduced legislation to allocate funds to support the establishment of regional designated hospitals that can provide specialized care for Ebola patients in an isolated setting. Currently, there are only four hospitals with bio-containment facilities in the United States, and those locations have a total of 11 beds that can be used at any one time for Ebola patients or others with infectious diseases that require isolation.

“The Ebola outbreak exposed serious vulnerabilities in our national public health preparedness and it is critical that hospitals are sufficiently trained, staffed, and prepared to provide the specialized treatment for Ebola patients while also protecting themselves” said Senator Markey. “The creation of these designated Ebola treatment centers will improve our ability to treat any future domestic Ebola cases and help ensure our hospitals are prepared for the next highly infectious disease outbreak.”

“Recent events highlighted vulnerabilities in our nation’s public health preparedness,” Portman stated. “The U.S. should be prepared to deal with highly infectious diseases like Ebola, and this commonsense legislation will ensure we have designated health care facilities that are trained, staffed, and prepared to provide specialized treatment to patients with infectious disease.”

Senators Markey and Portman’s legislation establishes a program where the Department of Health and Human Services can distribute funds to assist hospitals that voluntarily seek designation as a treatment center. These funds would support the establishment of an isolation unit, appropriate and intensive training for all healthcare workers, acquisition of needed personal protective equipment, handling, transport and disposal of contaminated waste and other activities necessary to treat patients with Ebola or other serious infectious diseases safely and effectively. The legislation would also allow hospitals to apply for compensatory awards to cover the excess and otherwise unpaid expenses of treating a patient with Ebola. Full text of the legislation (S. 2942) is available HERE.

The two Senators published an op-ed on their legislation today in Roll Call, which can be found HERE.

President Obama has asked Congress to provide $6.2 billion for emergency funding for Ebola. The two Senators today sent a letter to Senate leadership asking them to include their language as part of the emergency funding, ensuring the establishment of these vital hubs to protect Americans. A copy of that letter can be found HERE.

“Massachusetts hospitals have been and continue to work around the clock with appropriate staff to ensure that existing procedures and policies are updated to care for patients who are determined to have Ebola. While there have been no cases in Massachusetts, hospitals have been working collaboratively with our department of public health to ensure that there is a coordinated system to care for patients. We appreciate Senator Markey's recognition of the efforts in place in Massachusetts, and his leadership to ensure that providers have the funding to continue to provide the high standards of care, safety and quality for our patients and our communities that we serve. Through communication, collaboration, vigilance, and continuous improvements in care, we will aim for the highest level of preparedness.”  -- Lynn Nicholas, President & CEO, Massachusetts Hospital Association.

In the treatment centers or “hubs” system, any new patients diagnosed with Ebola would immediately be transported to the closest hub, where containment and treatment could be applied more quickly, reducing the risk of spreading the disease, while keeping the well-trained and equipped healthcare workers as safe as possible. Each hospital that successfully achieves the treatment center designation would be equipped with physicians that have expertise in diagnosing and treating infectious diseases such as Ebola, healthcare workers specifically trained to care for Ebola patients, and all of the equipment, training, and resources necessary to help aid in the expenses and complexities of treating and Ebola patient.

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