Republican legislators called Wednesday for a public hearing on Connecticut’s plans to respond to a potential Ebola outbreak, while state officials stressed that health services were prepared to deal with any cases that might arise.
“The public is confused and anxious over the spreading virus and needs more information,” House Republican leader Larry Cafero said in a press release.
“I believe we need to bring together experts to inform the public as best we can and identify procedures in the event that there are cases that show up in our state,” he added.
While there have been no cases of Ebola confirmed in Connecticut so far, Gov. Dannel P. Malloy declared a public health emergency last week, which gives the public health commissioner authorization to order isolation and quarantine of individuals suspected of carrying Ebola.
House Republican spokesman Pat O’Neil cited cases of two nurses in Texas contracting Ebola as cause to bring more attention to response protocols.
“The CDC is telling us we can expect more of these cases. We don’t really know what the protocols are,” he said.
The goal of the forum would be to bring state health officials and experts together to clarify how hospitals would respond to an Ebola case and answer any questions the public might have about the virus.
State Rep. Prasad Srinivasan, the ranking Republican member of the House Public Health Committee, said that he had sent a letter to the Public Health Commissioner Jewel Mullen requesting a hearing. Srinivasan is a doctor who specializes in allergy medicine.
While Department of Public Health spokesman Bill Gerrish said they had not received the invitation and couldn’t comment on whether they would participate in a public hearing, he said Connecticut hospitals have been preparing to identify and treat any cases of Ebola should they arise.
“We’ve been monitoring the situation in West Africa and receiving guidance from the CDC,” Gerrish said. “We’ve been communicating with many groups of providers over the past several weeks.” The department has extensive information about Ebola available on its website for the public and for health professionals
Gerrish said the department has sent communications to groups of health professionals, including hospitals, school-based health centers, EMS workers, and 60,000 registered nurses.
“Any acute care hospital in the state . . . is capable of caring for an Ebola patient,” Gerrish said.
Making health workers aware of Ebola symptoms and gathering a travel history are part of the protocol being implemented at state hospitals to screen for potential cases, Gerrish said.
Tuesday, all 29 hospitals in Connecticut returned an Ebola-readiness survey from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention to Mullen. She will review the surveys to see if any hospitals need more support from the state.
O’Neil said the state’s response to Ebola so far has been appropriate. Declaring a public health emergency was “the first step. I think it was probably the right move,” he said.
In Washington, several congressional Democrats including U.S. Rep. Rosa DeLauro called for a hearing on budget cuts to the National Institutes of Health and the CDC.