What officials at Ronald Reagan UCLA Medical Center are calling a “big exercise” on diagnosing and treating patients with Ebola virus symptoms will be held today.
“The big, mock-up walk-through” will be observed by Los Angeles County health department officials, said Dr. Zachary Rubin, UCLA’s medical director of clinical epidemiology and infection prevention.
The case of a Dallas nurse who contracted the disease while treating a now-deceased Ebola patient “obviously accelerated everybody’s time frame” in preparing to combat the deadly virus, Rubin said.
UCLA’s “multi-pronged” approach includes protocols for transporting patients through the hospital, disposing of trash and waste, dedicating equipment — such as ventilators and X-ray machines — for Ebola patient use only, setting up a mobile laboratory, acquiring specialized personal protective equipment and staff training.
UCLA Health System also adjusted its electronic medical record-keeping to alert staff to patients who recently traveled to high-risk areas. A red bar will appear over the medical charts of such patients. Blood analysis of patients suspected of having Ebola will be conducted in the mobile lab and not the medical center’s regular laboratory.
“Blood is highly infectious,” Rubin said. “We don’t want to risk contaminating the entire (healthcare) system.”
Doctors, nurses, respiratory therapists and other personnel in contact with Ebola patients will be equipped with respirators and full-body suits that include hoods and booties.
Because such protective suits can become hot and uncomfortable when worn for an extended period of time, fluid-resistant gowns will also be provided, Rubin said.
The specialized equipment will be available in the emergency departments at UCLA’s Westwood and Santa Monica medical centers, though the Westwood facility is where a patient suspected of Ebola would be brought.
Rubin said the “minimum number of people we need to take care of” Ebola patients will be used in an effort to to limit possible staff exposure to the virus, according to Rubin.
Preparing for patients stricken with Ebola has “involved a significant amount of time and thought,” Rubin said, and training for such cases is continuing.
Officials will have a better idea of how well the medical center is prepared for Ebola following the “big exercise” — as Rubin put it — in Westwood on Friday.