Hospital staffers prep with Ebola drills

BUFFALO, N.Y. (WIVB) –  Unannounced drills dealing with Ebola protocols have been carried out at hospitals in the Buffalo area and across New York State. The State Health Department is seeking to measure the level of response.

Taking proper precautions can be a matter of life and death for hospital workers. Hospital staffers in western New York worked with mock patients who suddenly presented themselves with symptoms of the disease.

“That drill went astoundingly well,” said Western New York Healthcare Association President John Bartimole. “It’s important to note that the hospital medical personnel did not know it was a drill.”

Staffers reportedly followed proper procedures in protecting themselves and isolating the mock patients after determining they had Ebola symptoms and had traveled to West Africa.

Not all hospital workers took part in the drill.  News 4 talked with some staffers at the Erie County Medical Center who said  they need to be told more about what challenges might lie ahead.

“They haven’t taught us anything or even talked to us about it,” said one worker.

ECMC Food Service worker Janice Brown said, “I’m in dietary, and that’s food handling, and we don’t really don’t know how this disease is transferred.”

“My concern is just how it’s contracted, and how I can protect myself and my family from working in the hospital,” said Innette Williams, a “sitter” for psychiatric patients at ECMC.

ECMC issued a statement saying it has trained front line staff and is in the process of educating all staff, should an Ebola patient be admitted.

One expert News 4 spoke to thinks the impact these cases could have on local hospitals could be great. “It’s going to be a major, major burden on any health care facility wherever these patients seek care,” says Dr. Rajinder Bajwa, Infectious Disease Specialist at the Niagara Falls Memorial Medical Center.

Not only will special teams and isolation rooms be necessary, but there is no cure for the disease. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, says Dr. Rajinder, will have to play an active role.

“When it comes to (an) actual drug against the virus, we do not have that,” he tells News 4. “We have to be clear about that, so everything we talk about is experimental.”

Those who coordinate hospital policy in western New York say right now, at least, there is no cause for alarm.

John Bartimole said, “To the best of my knowledge there is no reported case of Ebola in western New York, and, in fact, I would think we are a very low risk area right now as compared to a place such as New York City.”

Jayne Cooley, who coordinates hospital emergency response tells News 4 “Hospitals in our area are being sent the latest information from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Our hospitals are all up to snuff.”

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