With Sunday’s confirmation that an ICU nurse at a Dallas hospital that cared for a dying Ebola patient has tested positive for the deadly virus, President Obama ordered federal authorities to “take immediate additional steps to ensure hospitals and healthcare providers nationwide are prepared to follow protocols should they encounter an Ebola patient.”
That’s appropriate, as is the growing sense of urgency with regard to the level of readiness not just for the potential spread of Ebola but for other disease outbreaks.
This is not a time to panic. It is a time to get things right.
“Ebola is dangerous, and our No. 1 responsibility is to keep our people safe,” says Senator Elizabeth Warren, the Massachusetts Democrat who is a member of the Committee on Health, Education, Labor and Pensions. “But we want to be very careful that we are following the recommendations of the scientific community. We want to use best science here. That’s how we’ll keep ourselves safe. So for me, part of this is the reminder it is powerfully important to make long-term investments, particularly in medical research.”
Warren has not been shy about noting that “with all the spending cutbacks and all the pressure on the National Institute of Health, much of that research has been shelved.”
Warren is right; according to The Hill, “The sequester resulted in a $195 million cut that year to the National Centers for Emerging and Zoonotic Infectious Diseases, a CDC program that tries to prevent illness and death from infectious disease.”
Research is essential, but so too is basic preparedness.
The best way to determine if our hospitals are ready to respond is by asking a nurse. Or, to be more precise, nurses.
The answer, unfortunately, is that our hospitals are not up to speed.
Describing training and preparations as “woefully insufficient,” Castillo says, “We have to continue to sound the alarm. There is the potential for many more Dallases if hospitals are not mandated and do not commit to more vigorous standards. We see potential gaping holes for this to spread.”