October 12, 2015
Cheyenne, WY—Cheyenne Regional Medical Center is one of two hospitals in Wyoming to be designated as an Ebola Assessment Hospital by the Wyoming Department of Health (WYDOH). CRMC was notified of the designation in August and has signed a contract to be an Ebola assessment hospital for the next five years.
“We had to determine our preparedness to treat someone with Ebola and then present that through an extensive written application and an on-site review by the Wyoming Department of Health and the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC),” said Candis Pickard, CRMC’s emergency preparedness coordinator.
The application was submitted to the WYDOH last May and was followed by the CDC’s on-site review in September. The review was conducted by members of the CDC’s National Training and Education Center.
The application process and review determined that CRMC is prepared to care for a patient while testing for the Ebola virus is being performed. To date, no patients with the Ebola virus have been treated at CRMC.
“The likelihood that we would treat someone with Ebola is pretty low,” Pickard said. “But it’s our responsibility to be ready since we are the only regional medical center in this area.”
An Ebola assessment hospital must be prepared to provide up to 96 hours of isolation, evaluation and care for a person suspected of having the Ebola virus, until the diagnosis is either confirmed or ruled out.
A patient confirmed as having the Ebola virus would then be transported to an Ebola treatment hospital, which is equipped to provide comprehensive care for the duration of the patient’s illness.
There are 55 Ebola treatment hospitals in the United States, with Denver Health Medical Center in Denver, CO, and Children’s Hospital in Aurora, CO, being the closest to Cheyenne.
The development of Ebola treatment and assessment hospitals in the United States came about as a result of the Ebola outbreak in West Africa last year and the subsequent diagnosis and treatment of several infected patients in the United States.
“Overall, the assessment of Cheyenne Regional Medical Center went exceptionally well,” Pickard said. “The CDC reviewers told us they were pleased with our preparations and planning.”
While on site, CDC staff reviewed treatment procedures with CRMC personnel, local first responders, the Cheyenne-Laramie County Health Dept., the Wyoming Public Health Lab and the WYDOH. They also were shown the area where a patient would receive care.
Part of the review focused on CRMC having a 20-member Infectious Patient Response Team of physicians and nurses who are currently being trained to treat someone suspected of having Ebola.
“Having a team like this in place is a big plus,” Pickard said.
An emergency preparedness drill held last winter was also a positive, Pickard said. The drill tested how first responders and CRMC would handle someone suspected of having the Ebola virus. The drill included a mock patient who sought treatment at an urgent care center, was identified as possibly having Ebola and was then transported by ambulance to CRMC for care.
“That was a good test of the systems we had in place,” Pickard said. “It showed that our system and community partners knew the CDC recommendations and had the protective equipment and training necessary to provide a potential Ebola patient with good care and to also ensure that medical personnel were protected from exposure.”
Pickard said that the exercise also identified some areas to work on, such as the need to create the Infectious Patient Response Team that is now being formed.
As part of its designation, CRMC will conduct an annual drill focusing on the care of an Ebola patient, provide regular training to ensure staff safety when caring for an Ebola patient, stock appropriate personal protective equipment and report to the state’s Hospital Preparedness Program as requested.
Most of the focus over the past year has been on developing plans and procedures that CRMC staff would use to care for a patient suspected of having the Ebola virus.
“During the Ebola scare last year, we learned that there are a lot of people in our community who travel out of the country and could potentially be exposed to infectious diseases that aren’t endemic to the United States or our region,” Pickard said. “Having the systems, training and people in place to care for someone who may have the Ebola virus is helping us better prepare to treat any kind of infectious disease that might walk through our doors.”
Details about the requirements for an Ebola assessment hospital can be found on the CDC website at http://www.cdc.gov/vhf/ebola/healthcare-us/preparing/assessment-hospitals.html