Emory Trains Ebola Treatment Center Staff

The Centers for Disease Control in Atlanta. Photo courtesy of Wikimedia Commons
The Centers for Disease Control in Atlanta. Photo courtesy of Wikimedia Commons

The Emory University Hospital team that saved the lives of four Ebola patients last fall began training staff at 48 designated Ebola virus treatment centers from California to Massachusetts in late January. The initiative stemmed from a November contract awarded and funded by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), according to spokespeople for the CDC and the Emory Hospital.

Along with the University of Nebraska Medical Center, which, like the Emory Hospital, treated four Ebola patients last fall, members of Emory’s Serious Communicable Disease Unit (SCDU) traveled in December to these centers to prepare treatment of patients suffering from Ebola, or a similar, future epidemic, according to SCDU Clinical Nurse Specialist Sharon Vanairsdale.

“Our biggest principle has been, ‘Yeah, we’re dealing with Ebola now, but how can we be prepared for the next big outbreak?’” Vanairsdale said. She added that while Emory nurses and physicians gave their input at the designated treatment centers, most of the information was relayed — and continues to be relayed — at the Emory Conference Center Hotel and through conference calls with specialists.

Emory hosted a pair of two-day training seminars on Ebola preparedness at the Emory Conference Center Hotel, where dozens of physicians representing designated treatment centers attended. Physicians and nurses will hold their third and final seminar on Feb. 9 and 10, according to Vanairsdale. The seminars typically covered such topics as Personal Protective Equipment (PPE) donning and doffing, infection control, staffing and clinical care.

“It’s not necessarily, ‘This is what we’ve done wrong,’ but [input on] things that we didn’t have in West Africa because of a lack of manpower and materials,” such as availability of intravenous fluids and dialysis machines, Vanairsdale said, describing the experienced-based conference presentations.

In addition to conferences, specialists from the Emory Hospital and the University of Nebraska Medical Center also continue to hold conference calls every Wednesday on such subjects as occupational health and laboratory operations. The first conference call was held on Jan. 21, and last week’s subject involved nursing and the staffing model, according to Vanairsdale.

Emory physicians and nurses have already trained around 350 health care providers at 27 of the 48 designated treatment centers, according to Abbigail Tumpey, associate director for Communications Science at the CDC.

The CDC contract, according to Tumpey, has a base period that is funded through Feb. 17, but two optional periods could allow for funding through Aug. 17.

The SCDU also launched an Ebola-preparedness website, which allows health care workers to request Emory Healthcare Ebola preparedness protocol by submitting an online form.

In his message posted on the site, Emory Healthcare CEO John Fox, who stepped down in early January and will start his new position at Detroit-based Beaumont Health in March, urged hospitals to reach “some level of preparedness for Ebola and other types of communicable diseases that can always impact us at any point in time.”

He wrote that many centers “remain extremely limited,” but that “Emory Healthcare is committed to sharing our processes and learning on how to provide safe, effective care for patients with Ebola Virus Disease.”

— By Lydia O’Neal, Asst. News Editor