Officials at the Medical University of South Carolina in Charleston announced Thursday that they are prepared, equipped, and able to handle any cases of Ebola that may arise in South Carolina. The announcement was made at a joint news conference with state public health officials as they discussed South Carolina’s Ebola preparedness plan.
MUSC CEO Dr. Patrick Cawley says his facility has the personnel to handle an Ebola situation if one should arise.”We’re actually working very closely, not only with DHEC (Dept. of Health and Environmental Control), but with other hospitals around the state,” he told reporters during the press conference. “Other hospitals and DHEC may emerge in the next day or two, but we are ready today.”
Cawley said MUSC is also working with hospitals in the Charleston area to educate them on the handling of Ebola patients. Cawley also read a prepared statement from Charleston Mayor Joe Riley expressing his confidence that MUSC has the personnel and systems in place to handle an Ebola incident while protecting the community.
MUSC Chief Quality Officer Dr. Danielle Scheurer said ICU-trained physicians would be involved with any cases that may arise. She said 10 ICU-trained nurses have already volunteered if an incident should occur. Scheurer says the nurses will be using “the buddy system’ in order to protect themselves from infection.
“So they will be prepared to enter the room to get their gear on and off appropriately,” Scheurer said. “There is a suspicion that some of the contamination (at a Texas hospital) might have occurred at the time of either putting the gear on incorrectly or taking off the gear in a way that was not proper.”
Scheurer said MUSC has a very robust disaster management team that has been preparing for two weeks upon learning that Ebola was a potential threat. Scheurer said they are also looking into recommendations from the Centers for Disease Control and the World Health Organization.
DHEC director Catherine Templeton said South Carolina has the authority to monitor healthcare workers who have been in contact with a suspected Ebola case. Templeton says DHEC has also been communicating with various ports of call to monitor who is entering the state that may have spent time in West Africa.
“Additionally we are working with our pilots association, as ships come in from West Africa or their last ports of call were West Africa,” Templeton said. “We’ve already had one without incident. We will have another coming next week and it will be without incident because we’ve taken protective measures.”
DHEC also issued a public health order on Wednesday which created a central database of key people and facilities who are at the forefront when it comes to dealing with serious health risks. Templeton said DHEC has been able to communicate with the healthcare industry and the workers they regulate, but a more expansive system was needed.
“We have not been able with the push of an efficient button to communicate with every doctor, nurse, fire fighter, sheriff’s deputy, campus security guard, athletic trainer, urgent care center, or teacher, you name it,” she said. “We can now do that.”
Templeton said the state’s federal delegation has also helped her office stay in touch with U.S. Customs in order to find out who is entering South Carolina.