Regional hospital model responds to limits on available beds, helps ensure safe care of Ebola patients

WASHINGTON (October 20, 2014) – Senator Edward J. Markey (D-Mass.) today urged President Obama to designate regional hospital “Ebola treatment hubs” where staff are fully trained, prepared, and equipped to care for Ebola patients and contain the disease, while also serving as technical advisers to other hospitals within their own region. Currently there are only four hospitals with biocontainment facilities in the United States, and those locations have a total of only 11 beds that can be used for Ebola patients. The recent infections of health care workers in Dallas, Texas highlights the need for regional hospitals with better training, equipment, and expertise, the Senator says in his letter.


“We must be prepared to respond immediately and safely to any new domestic cases of Ebola that are found in our healthcare system,” writes Senator Markey. “It is clear that our nation’s local hospitals need additional support and guidance, including technical expertise, equipment, and extensive training for healthcare workers, in order to safely care for Ebola patients while also protecting themselves.”


The full letter from Senator Markey to President Obama can be found HERE.


In the regional “Ebola treatment hubs”, infectious disease experts from the Center for Disease Control and Prevention would provide extensive training to all healthcare workers at these regional hospitals, ranging from doctors and nurses to laboratory technicians and custodial staff, regarding the appropriate safety protocols for Ebola cases and the proper use of personal protective gear and disposal of contaminated waste. Those regional hospitals could then be a resource for local hospitals in the event of a larger outbreak of Ebola or other infectious diseases that warrant treatment.


In the “Ebola treatment hub” 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.


Public health experts have supported the idea of having regional hubs, and healthcare workers and providers have called for the need for workers who are trained, equipped, and prepared for Ebola cases. This weekend, Dr. Anthony Fauci, the head of the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases said, “I think this idea that every single hospital can take care of a seriously ill Ebola patient right now is just not true,” and these patients should instead be taken to “a place where you have pre-trained people who know how to do it.”


On Friday, the American Hospital Association, American Medical Association and the American Nurses Association released a joint statement saying that, “We are committed to ensuring that nurses, physicians and all frontline healthcare providers have the proper training, equipment and protocols to remain safe and provide the highest quality care for the patient,” and believe that a “solution-oriented, collaborative approach to Ebola preparedness is essential to effectively manage care of Ebola patients in the U.S..”