As medical professionals respond to the emergence of Ebola as a national public health threat, local health care leaders gathered Monday in a round-table discussion to share information and pledge to support one another in the case of an outbreak.
U.S. Rep. Ron Barber, who called the meeting, which was hosted by Tucson Medical Center, applauded the proactive steps being taken by the Pima County Health Department, hospitals, community health providers and first responders to prepare for the threat. “The fear factor here is a very big deal. We have to do everything we can to bring it down so people know what’s being done to protect them, both locally and nationally,” Barber said.
Even though Ebola is a major health care concern, it’s not a partisan one, he said. Residents should be reassured that health care providers are gearing up to be able to screen, detect and properly isolate patients – and that planning efforts are underway to bring everyone on the same page. “I think we’re well on the road to being well-prepared,” Barber said.
Judy Rich, president and CEO of Tucson Medical Center, understands the fear. She took a call last week from a woman who advised her not to treat any Ebola patients. “At the end of the day, she did not understand that when you’re in a role to serve, you are the frontline and you take care of anyone who comes in who needs care,” Rich recounted, pledging her commitment to support other providers and applauding the collaborative spirit with which the group came together. “I love the fact that we are here together and that we’re committing to each other to communicate.”
Tucson Medical Center is taking the threat very seriously, said Chief Medical Officer Rick Anderson, asking every patient about their recent travel and contact history – to the point that the hospital has employed “secret shopper” techniques to test how closely staff is following that protocol. Staff continues drilling on the use of personal protective equipment and has identified isolation rooms.
Anderson said he couldn’t be more proud of the emergency room nurses, who will be most at risk from exposure from a patient stricken with Ebola. “They understand what they’re supposed to do and they’re ready to take care of those patients if they are to come on site at TMC.”
Dr. Andreas Theodorou, the chief medical officer for the University of Arizona, said no one entity will have all the answers as the country navigates the domestic response to the disease. “The reality is this is a team sport,” he said. “No one should feel they’re alone in this. We’re all in this together and that’s how we’re going to solve it.”