Israeli Hospitals to Hold Ebola Drills

Health Ministry kicks preparations for coping with virus into high gear.

Ido Efrati
Ido Efrati
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Health workers in protective suits stand near a window at an isolation ward on the sixth floor of Madrid's Carlos III Hospital October 12, 2014.
Health workers in protective suits stand near a window at an isolation ward on the sixth floor of Madrid's Carlos III Hospital October 12, 2014. Credit: Reuters
Ido Efrati
Ido Efrati

In the wake of a meeting convened Sunday by Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu to discuss the Ebola outbreak in Africa — the second such meeting within a week — the Health Ministry has instructed Israeli hospitals in Israel to hold training drills to make sure they are ready to deal with patients who have or may have the deadly virus. Ministry officials will hold their own hospital drills and also carry out inspections to gauge the readiness of the country’s hospitals, starting toward the end of the month.

Protocols for treatment, isolation and protection in the event that Ebola is suspected were distributed to hospitals and other medical facilities several weeks ago.

“We want to see that the hospitals, which are entrusted with the treatment of such cases, are also prepared for scenarios of Ebola — from identification, hospitalization, laboratory examination and so on,” Health Ministry Director General Prof. Arnon Afek told Haaretz.

“We have contacted some hospitals and instructed them to hold internal drills. In two weeks we intend to hold more drills of our own to check their preparedness because we believe we should be prepared for any eventuality. Generally speaking, we are keeping track of what is happening throughout the world, holding ongoing meetings with specialists and adapting our policy in accordance with what is happening in the world. We should remember that Ebola is not a very contagious disease, and not many Israelis visit those countries,” Afek said.

Travel advisories have been issued for Guinea, Liberia and Sierra Leone and Liberia.

For now, anyone entering Israel after being in any of those states in the 21 days preceding their arrival — 21 days is the maximum incubation period that has been recorded for the virus between the time of exposure to the onset of symptoms — is required to report to a hospital emergency room if they develop a fever.

At Sunday’s meeting it was decided to raise the alert level for Ebola in Israel. Anyone arriving in Israel from Guinea, Liberia or Sierra Leone will be questioned at the port of entry and required to supply personal details to border control officials,

“We want to find them in the airport. Anyone with a fever will be sent to the emergency room immediately. Fever is the indicator of the disease; only people who have one will be examined,” Afek said. “Those who have no fever will leave their personal information and receive a sheet of instructions on how to proceed if they should develop a fever.”

Meanwhile, Israeli and Palestinian officials met Saturday to coordinate their strategy for handling the Ebola crisis. Gen. Yoav Mordechai, coordinator for government activities in the territories, conducted the discussion as part of the meeting of the Joint Civil Affairs Coordination and Cooperation Committee.

Officials from Israel’s Health Ministry, Palestinian Authority officials from the West Bank and the Gaza Strip and the PA’s representative from the World Health Organization attended the meeting. The officials agreed to continue to cooperate in additional meetings on the Ebola epidemic.

“The purpose of the meeting was to coordinate if Ebola cases should be discovered in the Palestinian Authority. It is important that we know about it. We have put our professional knowledge at their service, and we will cooperate in any event that requires it. I think that the more prepared we are, the calmer the public will be. Even if the chance is low, we are aware of the feeling that could be created if even one person suffering from the disease arrives in Israel. So it is important that the public know that even in such a case, we are prepared to keep any such event from spreading,” Afek said.

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