Ebola may have disappeared from the front pages of newspapers, but healthcare professionals like those at Middlesex Hospital are still focused on making sure they know what to do if a patient shows up in their emergency room.
David Giuffrida, vice president of facilities for Middlesex Hospital, told Gov. Dannel P. Malloy Monday that they’ve done nine drills and are prepared to receive a patient if one presents in their community.
“We’ve spent five weeks, 10-hour days preparing for this,” Giufridda said. “Or any other infectious disease that may come down the pike at us.”
It was Malloy’s first tour of a hospital following his Oct. 7 order in which he declared a public health emergency and gave Public Health Commissioner Jewel Mullen the authority to quarantine or isolate an individual or group of individuals who may have been exposed to, or infected with, the Ebola virus.
Mullen has used her authority to quarantine individuals like Ryan Boyko of New Haven. Boyko tested negative for the virus, but was ordered by Mullen and Malloy spend 21 days in his home.
A West Haven family of six also was quarantined by the state after they returned from one of the Ebola-affected countries in West Africa.
To date, there have been four quarantine orders issued by the state involving nine individuals. There are no Connecticut residents currently under quarantine, but there are eight individuals “being actively monitored” because they just returned from one of three Ebola-affected countries, according to Public Health spokesman William Gerrish.
The eight individuals will receive a call from their local health department asking them for their temperature twice daily for 21 days, but they do not have to stay in their home.
Malloy, who was in a tight re-election campaign, enacted strict Ebola protocols and tried not to politicize the issue.
Monday was his first chance to see what was happening on the ground.
“I’ve reviewed a lot of this information going along ever since I signed the executive order,” Malloy said Monday after a tour of the hospital. “This an opportunity for me to walk through the process as it exists at one of our hospitals.”
Malloy had asked all the hospitals in the state to begin drilling for the possibility they would receive a suspected Ebola patient at their door. Malloy read the post-action report on the drill Middlesex Hospital had conducted on Oct. 23 before he arrived Monday for the tour.
The governor wanted to know how long a patient suspected of carrying Ebola would be left in a small room in the emergency department before they would encounter an individual in a heavy-duty suit.
The staff explained that after the patient is escorted into the room by a triage nurse in level one protective gear, they will receive access to a phone where they will be able to communicate with another nurse. At the same time, a doctor will be putting on the level two protective gear in preparation to enter the room to evaluate the person further.
“It all happens in parallel,” Middlesex Hospital President and CEO Vincent Capece Jr. assured the governor.
Mullen said that over the past month the state Public Health Department has been working to build a “statewide system” so that everyone knows how to isolate or diagnose a person with Ebola symptoms.
“The system is maturing and we’re learning what else needs to happen in individual hospitals and to work across the state,” Mullen said. “Our expectation, and I believe it will be the commitment, of every Connecticut hospital is that they will maintain their ability to identify, isolate, and start the immediate care. The maturation of the system will allow us to say what happens after the immediate care.”
Giufridda said they are still communicating on a weekly basis with all the other hospitals in the state and he doesn’t believe this sort of training is something that will go away anytime soon. Even when the public forgets about it, the hospital professionals will still be working.