Officials at some area hospitals say they are on alert for potential signs of Ebola and hope their preparedness will help calm fear and anxiety in the community.
Every person that goes to Grand Strand Regional Medical Center is being screened for Ebola, said Winona McLamb, infection preventionist with the hospital.
Because the hospital has a visitor program, every person coming into the facility either as a visitor or patient will be asked about having flu-like symptoms and if they have traveled abroad during the last 21 days specifically to West Africa, McLamb said.
“At every one of those points we have a plan in place for the what-if. We have a designated area to segregate them and then institute our plan,” McLamb said.
Conway Medical Center officials were not available for comment.
Grand Strand officials developed their plan about six months ago when news of Ebola cases increased. Staffers have practiced that plan several times and continue to do so and fine-tune it after each drill, she said.
“We’re certainly seeing there are things we need to change and modify,” McLamb said. “Every hospital is doing the same thing, but we all do things a little differently. . . . Education is key because you want your nurses to be comfortable taking care of these people. When they know what to do they’re going to be that much more comfortable. We‘re going to do everything we can to do that safely.”
The plan calls for a separated triage area for the patient and nurses trained in protective equipment and procedures that includes alerting public health officials about a possible infection.
“We’re looking at our outpatient areas as well. We want them to be prepared to manage this as well,” McLamb said of other properties managed by the hospital system. “We’re always going to listen to the CDC with something like this and apply what they advise us to do to our environment.”
But for nurses working with the Georgetown Hospital System, the chance to test their plans happened this week when a person was brought into the emergency room following an accident, said Gayle Resetar, the hospital system’s chief operating officer.
The potential Ebola patient turned out not to meet the CDC risk, she said of Wednesday’s incident.
“Because this week we had an event . . . we are evaluating our response to that event,” Resetar said. “It was an excellent response by our caregivers and our team.”
Officials with the Georgetown Hospital System began to supplement their training to include a response to Ebola about 10 days ago, Resetar said Friday.
Employees have access to online training, reviewed CDC guidelines and hands on training such as use of personal protection equipment, in addition to a taskforce updating plans and equipment, she said.
“We are following the reports from CDC and updates from CDC and South Carolina DHEC closely,” Resetar said. “Our employee safety course is just as important as patient safety.”
Since guidelines are changing and other organizations are promoting stronger guidelines, Resetar said their taskforce will continue to monitor developments about the virus.
“We’ve attempted to be as proactive as we can with as much communication as we can,” she said. “I have no doubt that all of our community hospitals are prepared as any community hospital can be.”