Tacoma health systems continue to prep for Ebola

Tacoma’s two health systems continue to prepare to treat a person infected with Ebola, even as the chances of such a patient arriving diminish.

Spokespeople for both MultiCare Health System and CHI Franciscan Health said Tuesday that they planned to implement the latest guidance from the federal Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, which this week changed its recommendation on protective clothing for health care providers. The CDC now says providers should have no exposed skin. Most hospitals currently have clothing that can leave the neck exposed.

Hoods with neck covers were expected to arrive Tuesday or Wednesday (Oct. 22), said MultiCare spokeswoman Marce Edwards via email. Franciscan spokesman Scott Thompson said they also expect the new gear within days.

Meanwhile, the Washington State Nurses Association (WSNA) released its member survey on Ebola preparedness on Tuesday. More than 1,000 nurses from across the state responded over a period that included two nurses in Dallas testing positive for Ebola after treating a patient.

Some 86 percent of those nurses said they felt unprepared to manage a patient with Ebola, while 49 percent said their facility does have a plan.

The WSNA recommended four “immediate” actions: training during work hours on how to screen a patient for possible Ebola, as well as how to take on and remove protective clothing; ensuring access to isolation rooms and adequate staffing to allow nurses to use the “buddy system”; drills that involve the entire health care team, from doctors to lab workers to housekeepers; and continuing to follow the CDC’s evolving guidelines.

Both Edwards and Thompson said their health systems are planning to give training.

Franciscan started training so-called “super users” on the protective clothing last week, Thompson said, and training of core users at each hospital is scheduled during the next two weeks. Additionally, Franciscan plans to train a special group of people at each facility to care for a patient who might be hospitalized with Ebola.

MultiCare will train all staff, Edwards said.

That work “will continue until everyone is confident,” she said. “We will focus heavily on a small group of providers at Tacoma General and Mary Bridge who will receive extra training so they are prepared to treat patients with Ebola.”

Drills will begin later this week in clinics, urgent care facilities and emergency departments, Edwards said, with drills for other areas scheduled for the first week of November.