Drill at St. Mary’s Hospital prepares staff to deal with Ebola

Hospital officials say they are struggling to get protective gear on hand
Drill at St. Mary’s Hospital prepares staff to deal with Ebola
Ebola drill at St. Mary's Hospital

As Ebola scares are spreading throughout the states, local hospitals in Madison are preparing their staff to be ready for anything.

“It truly isn’t anything that we’ve ever dealt with in health care before,” said Ellen Smith, nurse epidemiologist at St. Mary’s Hospital.

Hazmat suits and biohazard containers are probably what you would not want to see while you’re at the hospital. But it’s those items Smith hopes will keep both patients and emergency room staff safe.

“We’ve learned the lessons out of Dallas; it’s all very important and it’s things that we can do to improve. And we want to ensure that what happens in Dallas doesn’t happen anywhere,” she said.

Learning from those lessons, St. Mary’s Hospital is prepping its staff by running drills going through the step-by-step process from when the patient first arrives and checking travel history, to the doctor suiting up in protective gear to treat the patients who could potentially have Ebola.

“We wanted to drill the first part of that and see what it’s like, identify any potential gaps and opportunities for improvement,” Smith said.

Everyone who treats a patient is required to wear a mask, gown, glasses and gloves. The hospital has designated rooms for each step of the process to avoid cross contamination. Smith said the most important part of containing the spread of Ebola is their protective gear.

“It’s important whoever goes in the room and takes care of the patient doesn’t have their skin exposed and that we can safely and effectively get them back out of that personal protective equipment without them splashing or exposing themselves at all,” she said.

One struggle Smith said the hospital has encountered is a lack of protective gear. They are currently on back order waiting to receive all the necessary gear. Smith said they are working with both local and state health companies to be fully prepared.

St. Mary’s Hospital officials plan on holding extensive training sessions in the next week for all of their employees.