Just this morning, President Barack Obama announced a new Ebola coordinator for his administration, responsible for the “whole of government Ebola response.” The events surrounding the catastrophic outbreak in West Africa and the subsequent death and infections here in the US have been evolving rapidly, with growing public concern and questions raised about the American healthcare system’s preparedness for this highly virulent and deadly disease.
While the cases in the US are fortunately isolated and we’re told that widespread infections are highly unlikely, all healthcare workers are being advised to reevaluate their infection prevention measures by the Centers for Disease Control (CDC). The most updated guidance from the CDC to healthcare workers focuses primarily on the hospital setting; however, the protective measures are applicable to any healthcare setting in which transmission of an infectious disease is a risk. The agency has also provided a patient evaluation checklist, and specific tools for protecting healthcare personnel.
As hospice providers, most staff and volunteers come in to contact with thousands of patients and family members every day. As the CDC has stressed, the likelihood they will ever treat someone exposed to the Ebola virus is remote. However, knowledge of the signs and symptoms and latest information regarding the scope of the outbreak is prudent.
NHPCO will continue to monitor updates from the government on its Ebola response, and share those most salient to the healthcare community. The American public is understandably concerned. As trusted healthcare providers who do the vast majority of our work in patients’ homes, we should not, in any way, foster a greater sense of anxiety. Our goal should continue to be helping our patients and their families understand these issues by using our experience and the best available knowledge to inform them.
J. Donald Schumacher, PsyD
President and CEO