Only One Israeli Hospital Equipped for Suspected Ebola Patients

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Nurses stage a demonstration protesting inadequate Ebola preparedness, October 28, 2014 in San Francisco, California.Credit: AFP

Anyone suspected of carrying the Ebola virus in Israel will for now be referred only to Rambam Medical Center in Haifa, after Health Ministry officials determined that other hospitals didn’t have the facilities necessary to manage the disease.

The decision was taken yesterday. A drill rehearsing procedures required to treat Ebola patients was also held yesterday at Rambam.

Dr. Galia Rahav, head of the infectious disease unit at Sheba Medical Center at Tel Hashomer near Tel Aviv, last week told ministry officials that she could not receive Ebola patients because the hospital’s isolation tent was inappropriate for the task.

Following the drill at Rambam, Health Ministry Director General Arnon Ofek concluded that the specifications for existing hospital tents should be changed.

Because Rambam has the necessary isolation rooms as well as an underground hospital floor with all necessary infrastructure, the Haifa hospital will be given priority in the event of a suspected case of Ebola, the ministry said in a statement.

Earlier plans called for Rambam and Sheba to receive suspected Ebola patients in isolation tents. But as Channel 1 reported on Monday, medical staff at Sheba insisted that the hospital’s tents were inadequate to treat Ebola patients.

At a meeting last week, Rahav told ministry officials that she adamantly opposed the prospect of Ebola patients being treated at the facility under current circumstances. She voiced concern that with the current arrangements, hospital staff could be put at risk, Haaretz has learned.

“The tent was set up in an isolated location behind the emergency room, but then we found that Ebola patients could not be treated in such a tent,” Rahav told Haaretz.

“It’s a small and cramped tent, without running water or lavatory facilities or showers. The lack of lavatories is a fundamental issue. Nurses cannot be allowed to collect the secretions of patients in a bedpan a number of times a day and dispose of them somewhere else. The tent doesn’t have facilities where patients can shower or use the toilet in a normal fashion.

“These are conditions that endanger staff people. And as someone who is also responsible for the safety of staff people who come in contact with the patients, we could not agree to admit patients under such circumstances.”

The Health Ministry has now ordered larger tents that are also equipped with chemical toilets, showers and sinks. “Specifications have been set that more appropriately address [the needs involved in] ongoing treatment of the Ebola patient, and immediate orders were placed for four tents,” the ministry said. They’re expected to replace the current tents within a month and a half.

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