U.S. Hospitals Aren't 'Ebola-Ready'

Olga Khazan | The Atlantic | October 17, 2014

Healthcare workers say they're far from prepared to treat a patient with the virus.

How did two nurses, both wearing protective gear, get Ebola in a Dallas hospital? That's the frightening question behind the growing criticism of the CDC and Dallas's Texas Health Presbyterian hospital. Not to mention less-reasonable chatter, like demands for a travel ban, suggestions that Liberians are rushing U.S. borders for free medical care, and fears that the American Ebola cases are part of an elaborate conspiracy designed to enrich drug companies.  Although the CDC has said it spent months readying U.S. hospitals to handle potential Ebola cases, many healthcare workers around the country are now saying they are far from prepared to treat patients who have the virus.

We still don't know exactly how either of the Texas nurses, Nina Pham and Amber Vinson, contracted the disease. In a statement provided to a nurses' union, their co-workers in Dallas claimed that a number of things went wrong, including that the patient, Thomas Eric Duncan, was not immediately isolated, that the nurses lacked hands-on training, that hazardous waste had piled up around the hospital, and that their protective gear left parts of their bodies exposed.  On Friday, a Texas Health Presbyterian nurse, Briana Aguirre, told CNN that the only training she received was a one-time, optional seminar, and that her suit left her neck exposed.

The hospital has denied all of these statements and has said it was in compliance with CDC recommendations at all times.  Health officials say that hospital workers should have regular practice drills on how to take the protective clothing, hoods, and gloves on and off. It's important to "make sure we can open the supply closet, pull stuff out at 2 a.m. on a Sunday morning," Stephen Frum, a nurse at Medstar Washington Hospital Center in Washington, told WAMU...