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Parkland Hospital's Ebola Plan: 'Ready To Go In The Event We Have To Do This For Real'

Parkland Hospital/Facebook
Dr. Alex Eastman of Parkland Hospital said the Dallas Ebola news only strengthened the staff’s resolve to be prepared with a response plan.";

The medical director of disaster preparedness for Dallas County's public hospital system says staff members were disheartened to learn of a second nurse with Texas Health Presbyterian Hospital in Dallas contracting Ebola.

But Dr. Alex Eastman of Parkland Hospital said the news only strengthened the staff’s resolve to be prepared with a response plan.

From Dr. Eastman’s interview…

On screening: We’re screening every patient who seek care throughout the emergency system. Just in the emergency department alone, the main campus, since August, we’ve screened more than 42,000 people who’ve sought care at the Parkland emergency department. First, a very broad set of questions that focused on travel to Ebola-infected areas. Then obviously, we subsequently added contact with any patients in Dallas who might have the disease. Positive answers trigger a more detailed secondary screening that is designed to look at more epidemiological and symptomatic factors that would rule out the disease.

When someone has symptoms: They are immediately isolated and the staff immediately takes steps to protect themselves personal protective equipment. We have two packages: One that’s used for our screening locations that’s based on the CDC’s recommendations. And a second level that is designed for our caregivers who’ll be involved with direct patient care or performing any invasive procedures. Those things all go into place immediately after the screening. There’s no delay. And everything from where those ensembles are assembled, who transports the patient, how we move them through the hospital – all those things have been pre-identified, pre-planned, and ready to go in the event we have to do this for real.

What led to the Ebola Plan:  In keeping with the fact that we’re a global city with a large international airport and a large international presence, watching this develop on the African continent, it was only a matter of time until we saw some in the United States. So, being vigilant in our disaster management staff and program, making sure that the hospital was prepared was what prompted that enhanced screening.

Sam Baker is KERA's senior editor and local host for Morning Edition. The native of Beaumont, Texas, also edits and produces radio commentaries and Vital Signs, a series that's part of the station's Breakthroughs initiative. He also was the longtime host of KERA 13’s Emmy Award-winning public affairs program On the Record. He also won an Emmy in 2008 for KERA’s Sharing the Power: A Voter’s Voice Special, and has earned honors from the Associated Press and the Public Radio News Directors Inc.