Ebola: Let Cooler Heads Prevail

By columnist Lewis H. Goldstein

Last night at a meeting of the Community Advisory Board (CAB) of the North Bronx Healthcare Network (Jacobi Medical Center and North Central Bronx Hospital) I, as a member of the CAB, was able to get answers to concerns that many in our borough have at this time.

I was able to speak to Mr. William Walsh, Executive Director of Jacobi Medical Center and Senior Vice President, North Bronx Healthcare Network both privately and when he addressed the CAB regarding preparedness for any Ebola cases. I also spoke to Dr. Yvette Calderon, Medical Director of the Emergency Department, Jacobi Medical Center and North Central Bronx Hospital.

Mr. Walsh detailed the preparedness at both facilities. Staff has been trained to ask proper questions of all patients who seek care at both facilities. Their own travel history and their contact with relatives and friends who have traveled recently are scrutinized. I was able to ask about staff that might have traveled to the western part of Africa and was told that proper protocols are in place for all staff returning from travel to that part of the world. Mr. Walsh stated: “We have used simulation based scenarios to practice procedures to be in place in case there is a possibility of an Ebola patient. I feel confident that we have properly trained our staff at both Jacobi and North Central Bronx.”

In speaking to the CAB Mr. Walsh stated that it would be very difficult for a person with Ebola to make it to the Bronx. Airplanes from West Africa do not fly direct to JFK. Passengers from West Africa are checked prior to embarking on their flights from that area. They usually land in Europe or in Asia for a flight to JFK. Prior to embarking on the flight to JFK they are checked and then checked upon arrival at JFK. If a possible Ebola patient is at JFK that person will be sent to Bellevue for isolation, observation and if necessary treatment. There were two cases of possible Ebola at Jacobi. Both patients were placed in isolation. Doctors well versed in Ebola had appropriate tests administered. Nether patient had Ebola. Dr. Calderon went into detail about the isolation rooms that have been set aside at both hospitals. All Bronx hospitals are coordinating preparedness and the way in which to act in the remote possibility of an Ebola case here in the Bronx. Please, do not overreact if you get the sniffles, a headache or an upset stomach. As long as you were not in West Africa and have not had any contact with a person who was the chances are minimal that you have the disease or will get it. Cases of Ebola are pretty much confined to Liberia, Nigeria, Guinea and Sierra Leon. An outbreak in the Democratic Republic of the Congo is not related to the outbreak in West Africa. I addition t appears that the outbreak in Nigeria has been controlled through proper and timely actions by the government. Other countries allowed the disease to fester and explode into an epidemic. Our Borough, City, State and nation are prepared. Relax.

Addendum: Today’s news regarding the person in Texas with Ebola indicates that the hospital team failed to ask the proper questions of the gentleman from Liberia. Instead of questioning him about his travel history they quickly released him when he first cane to the hospital feeling that he had a low grade fever. The improper questioning was a major mistake by hospital staff. This allowed the patient to leave the hospital and have contact with relatives and friends in the Dallas community. Unlike what occurred in Dallas, Bronx hospitals and hospitals a across New York are very carefully questioning and examining those coming to the hospital. The improper questioning will not occur here. As a member of the CAB of North Bronx Healthcare Network I have complete confidence in Bill Walsh and Yvette Calderon and the entire staff at JMC and North Central Bronx Hospital. I will continue to be in contact and update when needed.

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