BWWMH staff undergoes ebola preparedness training

Ebola was once of concern only to those across the Atlantic Ocean. Now that it has come into the United States, hospitals and medical offices across the country are trying to be prepared.

The staff at Bryan W. Whitfield Memorial Hospital is no different.

On Wednesday, nurses and technicians attended workshops at the hospital presented by Tina Norwood with the Alabama Department of Public Health and Cindy Parten, who is in charge of professional standards at the hospital.

Parten expects to set up further training by the Demopolis Fire Department in the use of hazmat suits for those personnel who are expected to have contact with a patient suspected to have ebola. That training also will include AmStar and ambulance staff.

The hospital already has all hazmat suits in place in ER, thanks to the grant for the decontamination unit already on hand, Parten said. “We want to make sure everyone is very confident on putting on and taking off protective clothing.”

BWWMH is following the Center for Disease Control guidelines, said Cathy Hughes, director of nursing. That information constantly is updated, Norwood said in the workshop, “Every day things change as they learn more about ebola.”

In every case the hospital is trying to limit the number of people who come in contact with a suspected patient.

Plans are being finalized for where to transport contaminated materials that have been incinerated and where to send patients, she continued.

Every person who is involved in registering patients has been instructed on how to ask questions if a patient presents symptoms such as a high fever. The most important questions involve overseas travel or contact with someone who has been overseas.

“We are learning from Dallas,” said Parten.

While Whitfield Hospital would be the first to see a patient, “There are so many things that we cannot do here,” she continued.

“We are ill equipped in our very small hospitals to care for ebola patients,” echoed Norwood.

All blood samples of suspected patients must be sent to epidemiology in Montgomery, Norwood continued. Already two samples in the state have gone through special testing, but in both cases the patients had malaria.

Norwood stressed that if anyone suspects he might have contracted ebola that he call the hospital before coming in. That way the staff can be prepared ahead of time to limit any contamination of themselves or others.