Health officials say that hospital workers should have regular practice drills on how to take the protective clothing, hoods, and gloves on and off. It's important to "make sure we can open the supply closet, pull stuff out at 2 a.m. on a Sunday morning," Stephen Frum, a nurse at Medstar Washington Hospital Center in Washington, told WAMU.
In a Congressional hearing yesterday, Daniel Varga, the chief clinical officer for Texas Health Resources, the medical group that oversees Texas Health Presbyterian Hospital, said that the health workers treating Duncan were wearing the "level two" protective gear shown on this New York Times infographic.
However, he also said “shoe covers were added shortly thereafter,” implying that time had elapsed between when Duncan was admitted and when the foot protection was donned.
It would be one thing if Dallas was uniquely ill-equipped to handle Ebola. But increasingly, nurses' groups from around the country are saying that their members have received little training in how to process a suspected Ebola case.
In a recent survey of 2,000 nurses at more 750 facilities in 46 states, the Nurses United union found:
- 76 percent still say their hospital has not communicated to them any policy regarding potential admission of patients infected by Ebola
- 85 percent say their hospital has not provided education on Ebola with the ability for the nurses to interact and ask questions
- 37 percent say their hospital has insufficient current supplies of eye protection (face shields or side shields with goggles) for daily use on their unit; 36 percent say there are insufficient supplies of fluid resistant/impermeable gowns in their hospital
- 39 percent say their hospital does not have plans to equip isolation rooms with plastic covered mattresses and pillows and discard all linens after use; only 8 percent said they were aware their hospital does have such a plan in place
"We have heard consistently across the country that there are no protocols in place," Nurses United executive director RoseAnn DeMoro told reporters Wednesday. DeMoro also said that the situation could escalate to possible strikes if nurses don't receive better training and supplies soon.
Nurses from other unions have echoed those complaints. Mari Cordes, a nurse in Burlington, Vermont, and president of the Vermont Federation of Nurses & Health Professionals, said that her hospital, Fletcher Allen Health Care, has not conducted any trainings or advisories about Ebola.
"We have been told by Fletcher Allen that 'they' are planning, but ... hospital management has yet to meet with staff, and says that the earliest they could meet with us is October 31st," she said in an email. "The Ebola outbreak has been occurring for months."
Lynda Pond, a labor and delivery nurse in Springfield, Oregon and a member of the Oregon Nurses Association, said she doesn't feel adequately educated about Ebola and claimed that the primary communication she's received from her hospital about the issue was through a "blast email" on October 6. She asked that the name of her employer not be used.