My latest article for Multibriefs addresses the risk of being unprepared for events like the current evolving situation with Ebola. Healthcare providers have a responsibility to be prepared and the government has a responsibility for supporting the planning process, including with funding.
In the case of the hospital who did have an Ebola positive patient walk through the doors, they weren't really prepared. A more proactive hospital may have researched how caregivers were protecting themselves in Africa, trained staff earlier, identified an Ebola Response Team and/or conducted a tabletop exercise.
A more proactive CDC may have recognized that standard Universal Precautions weren't enough and have had more detailed guidance available for providers that leveraged the lessons learned from African caregivers. For months we had been seeing pictures of staff with PPE like the one below on the news. Did no one ask why caregivers in Africa seemed to be more fully covered?
The reality is we didn't invest the energy and resouces into planning because we didn't think it would happen to "us". Disaster planning and emergency preparedness is accepting the fact that it can, and will, happen. It is also about not assuming that others, like the CDC, will do it for us or waiting for them to do so. We learned this after Hurricane Katrina, but seemed to have forgotten that effective healthcare leaders take control of their own destiny.
Update: Nov 11th:
I came across two Modern Healthcare Articles with some excellent commentary and a quote. They are
- On the other hand,..."It will be really, really expensive to be unprepared if an Ebola patient shows up."
- "Texas Health Presbyterian Hospital Dallas will likely become a risk management classic."
- "Ebola not only infects patients, it can infect the corpus of hospitals as well..... This corporate version of the Ebola infection can, in a matter of days, bring healthy hospitals to the verge of business mortality, as well."
- "These risks exponentially multiply, each one compounding the other: Reputational, staffing, clinical volume, financial risks."