JEFFERSON CITY - No special actions are being taken by Missouri hospitals to prepare for Ebola, but funding from the state is limiting their preparation efforts, Missouri Hospital Association's Vice-President Dave Dillon said.
Preparing hospitals for Ebola in Missouri is not a unique circumstance, he said. "We actually are not doing anything we wouldn't do for a similar emergency, whether it was Ebola or a pandemic influenza or reacting to an earthquake or another type of disaster," Dillon said.
Missouri hospitals have prepared for similar situations in the past and have been given resources to handle these types of situations.
"This isn't new because this has occurred. In fact, we have been, for over a decade, investing resources in Missouri in equipment and in training in staff at Missouri hospitals so that they have the capacity to respond to something similar to this," Dillon said.
Most Missouri hospitals have protective equipment available to them but Dillon said it is questionable if they have access to higher level equipment.
"Most hospitals already have a certain level of protective equipment for staff and probably have levels that are, access to levels, that are above what the CDC is currently recommending," Dillon said. "What's more, we actually, as an organization, have worked with the hospital community to strategically to locate caches of equipment and supplies so that if, in fact, we were to have a hospital that had an event, we would be able to support them with additional equipment."
National Nurses United, a national nurses union, conducted a survey and found that nurses across the country are demanding more training to handle the illness and protection from the illness itself. RoseAnn DeMoro, the executive director of National Nurses United says there is no room for error in a situation like this.
“There is no standard short of optimal in protective equipment and hands-on-training that is acceptable,” DeMoro said in a news release. “Nurses and other frontline hospital personnel must have the highest level of protective equipment, such as the Hazmat suits Emery University or the CDC themselves use while transporting patients and hands on training and drills for all registered nurses and other hospital personnel including the practice putting on and taking off the optimal equipment. The time to act is long overdue.”
The nurses union sent a letter to President Obama Wednesday demanding he use his authority to make sure hospitals across the country are prepared to handle an Ebola outbreak.
Over the past year, funding for hospital preparedness has declined leaving the certainty of long-term preparations questionable.
"Over the course of the last year, 40% of the funding for hospital preparedness that comes through the state but from the federal government was cut, and so while we have a capacity to respond and while we have invested significantly in staff resources and in supplies, the supplies will not last us forever if, in fact, we were to get into a situation where needed to start using them," Dillon said. "And so, ultimately, we will need if we have this type of problem in the US and/or Missouri, have the federal government step up and continue to build funding for the things that will be required to provide that level of treatment."
Dillon said the Missouri Hospital Association is not in charge of preparing hospitals for this type of emergency.
"The association only helps inform our members and work with our members," Dillon said. "When it comes to who's really in charge, we're not at all. Our only role is to facilitate information and funding for certain things."