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MUSC monitors evolving Ebola situation as talks continue on state level

Helen Adams | MUSC News Center | October 22, 2014

Photos by Sarah Pack


DHEC director Catherine Templeton, MUSC Medical Center executive director and CEO Dr. Patrick Cawley and medical director for quality Dr. Danielle Scheurer discuss Ebola preparedness at a news conference. See below. 

New guidelines for hospital workers treating Ebola patients mark the latest development in an evolving situation that the Medical University of South Carolina is monitoring closely.

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention issued the new recommendations on Monday. They include more detail than the previous guidelines, including the suggestion that no skin be left uncovered and a call for supervisors to watch every step as hospital workers put on and take off equipment to prevent mistakes.

Governor’s Ebola roundtable

That same day, leaders from MUSC took part in Governor Nikki Haley’s roundtable discussion on Ebola. The MUSC contingent included Patrick Cawley, M.D., chief executive officer of MUSC’s medical center and vice president for clinical operations; Rick Nolte, Ph.D., director of clinical laboratories at MUSC; and Danielle Scheurer, M.D., director of quality for the medical center. They joined medical, safety and political experts from around the state in Columbia.

Cawley was encouraged by what he heard.

“It is clear that South Carolina and its major regional referral medical centers are well prepared and developing further capabilities,” Cawley said.

“From MUSC’s point of view, I stressed the different types of training needed at different levels of the health care system,” Cawley said. “I also pointed out the importance of maintaining an ‘all volunteer’ clinical care team, which we have at each of the regional medical centers, including MUSC.”

Haley called the risk of Ebola in South Carolina “very low.”

The roundtable was the latest in a series of discussions about Ebola preparedness in South Carolina. Last week, the state director of the Department of Health and Environmental Control thanked MUSC at a news conference for being “ready, willing and able to receive a patient sick with Ebola should we need them in South Carolina.”

MUSC preparations

That readiness involves preparing people and resources, an undertaking infectious disease experts and other leaders at MUSC have been involved with for weeks.

They have compiled a list of nurses, doctors and other employees who have volunteered to treat Ebola patients if needed. They plan to put the volunteers on specialized teams with two intensive care nurses, one physician and one respiratory therapist per patient per shift.

They have also carefully documented what resources would be needed at MUSC and made sure they are available.

Those resources include:

  • Ten Isopods, which are enclosed stretchers used to safely move patients with infectious diseases
  • A flight team experienced in transporting people who are critically ill
  • A surgical trauma intensive care unit that has been designated as an Ebola treatment area if needed
  • A company prepared to handle eight to ten 55-gallon drums of waste per day
  • An outside contractor to handle cleaning

Infectious disease experts at MUSC talk Ebola preparedness

October 16, 2014

Health officials hope that Ebola never appears in South Carolina, but if it does, they say the Medical University of South Carolina is prepared. They spoke at a news conference on MUSC’s Charleston campus this morning.

“We are ready to receive patients here today,” said Patrick Cawley, M.D. He serves as chief executive officer and vice president for clinical operations at MUSC Medical Center.

“We think we have the facility to receive at least a few patients and over time we may be able to accept additional patients.”

MUSC is the first hospital in South Carolina to be declared “ready, willing and able” to treat Ebola by the state Division of Health and Environmental Control.

DHEC director Catherine Templeton said she’s working with other hospitals around the state to determine which other facilities will join MUSC in being prepared to care for patients with Ebola. 

Dr. Danielle Scheurer answers reporters' questions about MUSC preparations for Ebola. 

MUSC’s announcement today follows weeks of preparation. Danielle Scheurer, M.D., is director for quality for the medical center. She spoke at the news conference as well, providing some specifics about how MUSC is handling the possibility of Ebola in S.C.

“We have a very robust disaster management team,” Scheurer said. “We knew Ebola was a potential threat. We’re using our existing infrastructure for planning in conjunction with our subject matter experts here on site.”

She said MUSC is also closely observing Ebola treatment protocols offered by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention and the World Health Organization.

“We’re very prepared to screen, isolate, and communicate at all points of entry throughout MUSC health,” Scheurer said. "We’re confident we’re going to be able to do that.”

Templeton put MUSC’s screening to the test last weekend, pretending to be a patient with flu symptoms to see how hospital personnel would respond. She said she was immediately asked about her recent travel history, and said MUSC passed her test with flying colors.

 Brian Fletcher, R.N., disaster preparedness program manager for MUSC, demonstrates how an Ebola patient would be transported.

The announcement that MUSC is prepared to treat Ebola does not mean that anybody with Ebola in South Carolina will necessarily be sent to MUSC. “Keep in mind that if we have a suspect case, we will make the decision based on where that person is when they present,” Templeton said. Health officials will consider “the capability of the hospital and the safety of the public as far as whether or not to transport” to MUSC or another facility.

Templeton said every hospital in the state has pinpointed where it could isolate an Ebola patient if needed while a decision is made about whether to move the patient to MUSC or elsewhere.

Also at the news conference, MUSC officials discussed precautions for doctors and nurses who might treat Ebola patients. 

“We have face masks, goggles, essentially head-to-toe, with boots that would protect from any bodily fluids spilled,” Scheurer said. “We have ordered all the appropriate equipment. It is on site.”

Cawley said another local hospital has already volunteered to send personnel to MUSC for training to help handle any Ebola cases. 

“We’re working very closely with hospitals here in Charleston," Cawley said. “We think this wouldn’t just be an MUSC situation if we were to see patients here. This is a community situation.”

To watch the video of the press conference go to our youtube channel.




Related Stories >>

Video - Press Conference

Post and Courier: Volunteers to treat patients with Ebola in SC

DHEC director tests MUSC, Roper Ebola protocols during undercover drill

NYTimes: Ebola facts: Dallas timeline

MUSC panel discussion on Ebola follows screening of documentary

Resources >>

MUSC Division of Infectious Disease

CDC: About Ebola

MUSC News Center Archives


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