Health Center News

Ebola and Community Health Centers

facts-about-ebolaThe Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) is trying to ensure that providers are prepared in case more cases of the Ebola virus are detected. A second healthcare worker at the Texas Presbyterian Hospital has now tested positive for the virus after coming into contact with a patient who died from Ebola. CDC and its partners are taking precautions to prevent the spread of Ebola within the United States. Among the resources coming out from CDC is a resource/checklist for Outpatient/ Ambulatory Care Settings. Representatives from the Department of Health and Human Services are also hosting a conference call on Monday, October 20th at 1 pm, ET for hospital executives, hospital emergency management directors, and safety officers to describe how to prepare healthcare systems to protect health and safety should an Ebola patient be present at the facility. We will post the call information as soon as its available.

In the meantime NACHC is also urging health centers to work directly with local public health departments to ensure an effective and coordinated response. NACHC is advising health centers to ramp up their front desk/scheduling operations to ensure appropriate screening of patients. If a patient is concerned that they are exhibiting symptoms of Ebola, the protocol for telephone screening should first and foremost rule out whether the patient has traveled to any of the countries affected by the Ebola Virus Disease. If appropriate, the patient should be referred to a facility that is equipped and prepared to handle such cases without presenting to the health center and possibly exposing others. Call ahead of time to alert the facility that a suspected case will be presenting, so that they can prepare for their arrival.

NACHC’s Chief Medical Officer Ron Yee, MD, also offers some cautionary advice: “While we are greatly concerned about the protection of our communities, patients and staff from the Ebola virus, taking the appropriate measures, we need to make sure that we are also protecting our populations from influenza and addressing enterovirus cases. These conditions will affect a great number of individuals and are also very important, from a public health standpoint. We should not let the fear of Ebola distract us from the important work of prevention. While taking the proper steps to address Ebola, make sure you and your loved ones get vaccinated, wash your hands frequently, and cover your coughs. These are things everyone can do now to stay healthy.”

Finally, don’t forget to include communications in your response planning. The primary goal is to educate and to allay fears about Ebola and emphasize to the community and patients that staff are trained and prepared to deal with public health threats.