Wednesday, October 15, 2014

Highlighting Concerns, Ebola Spreads To Second Healthcare Worker

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A second healthcare worker at Texas Health Presbyterian Hospital who helped treat the late Ebola patient Thomas Eric Duncan has now tested positive for the virus, state health officials confirmed on Wednesday.

The unidentified worker reported having a fever on Tuesday and was immediately isolated. A preliminary Ebola test confirmed the presence of the disease and confirmatory testing is now being conducted by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention in Atlanta.

According to the Texas Department of State Health Services, officials are in the process of interviewing the patient to identify individuals who may have had contact or potential exposure to the virus.

News of the infection comes four days after a nurse from Texas Health Presbyterian, identified as the 26-year-old Nina Pham, also tested positive for Ebola.

The National Nurses Union for months has warned that poor hospital training and oversight is putting U.S. healthcare workers at great risk of contracting the virus. The NNU conducted a recent survey of healthcare workers across the country and found that 76 percent said their hospital had not yet communicated to them any policy regarding potential admission of patients infected by Ebola.

“What concerns me is that this validated what our systems say all over the country throughout the last two months, that hospitals are not prepared to take care of Ebola patients,” Deborah Burger, co-president of NNU, told ABC News. “It is disturbing to have all of our concerns validated in one hospital.”

A growing number of health experts are drawing a line between this gross unpreparedness and the United States’ privatized healthcare system, under which there is minimal oversight and no uniformity between healthcare providers.

Speaking on Democracy Now! Wednesday morning, Dr. Lawrence Gostin, faculty director at the O’Neill Institute for National & Global Health Law at Georgetown University, asked: “We call ourselves the most advanced health system in the world, but what do we meant by that?”

“I think what we mean is that we have the best of the best of the world,” Gostin continued. “We also have a highly variable system: so many different hospitals, so many different  emergency rooms, over 300 local health authorities with such different standards.” Gostin said that the U.S. needs to “up our game,” with more uniform systems in place, more uniform equipment and training at every institution.

The NNU is holding a national conference call Wednesday at 3 PM for a discussion about U.S. hospital preparedness. Over 1,000 nurses have already signed up for the call.

The World Health Organization on Tuesday warned that the number of cases of Ebola is growing exponentially as the global response continues to fall far short of what’s needed to combat the spread of the deadly virus. WHO assistant director-general Dr. Bruce Aylward said that if efforts do not improve there could be as many as 10,000 new cases per week within two months within those hardest hit areas in West Africa. According to the WHO, over 4,400 people have now died of Ebola—the vast majority in Liberia, Sierra Leone and Guinea.

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This article was published by Common Dreams.

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