The Ebola outbreak has claimed nearly 4500 lives according to the World Health Organization. While ground zero for the outbreak is West Africa, it can spread further when an unknowingly infected person gets on an airplane.
Last week Health Minister Terry Lake assured British Columbians that his government was prepared in the unlikely event that a case of Ebola appeared in this province.
“The risk remains very low,” Minister Lake said. “But British Columbians can be assured that hospitals, health authorities and the Ministry of Health are doing everything possible to be prepared to respond to a case of Ebola in B.C.”
In the Interior Health region and at East Kootenay Regional Hospital, training is underway to prepare health care workers, says Karl Hardt, communications officer for the East Interior Health region.
“It is important to emphasize that the risk of an Ebola case remains very low; there are no confirmed cases of Ebola in Canada,” Hardt said. “But we are taking this seriously and have been preparing for a while. We know that health care workers are not feeling comfortable and we are taking action to provide the information, training and resources they need.
“Interior Health is part of a provincial task force led by the Provincial Health Officer that will collaborate on common areas of concern, review protocols and coordinate best practices across the health authorities. Interior Health has also established a working group to ensure that our staff are well-prepared to respond to any potential cases and to ensure the safety of healthcare workers, patients and the public.”
Hardt says that the first priority for IH is to ensure that health-care workers have the personal protective equipment (PPE) and the training they need to use that equipment safely and with confidence.
“Managing and preventing the spread of infectious diseases is not new for our healthcare facilities or our staff. Many have had training in the use of PPE, but we need to ensure skills are up to date and refreshed in order to build confidence.”
Minister Lake said that BC’s experience with SARS in 2003 and H1N1 in 2009 shows that the province is prepared for an outbreak of an infectious disease.
Hardt says IH is working on making access to information and resources related to Ebola as easy as possible for staff and training sessions are beginning.
“We will have an internal website up and running soon that will contain the clinical information that they need as well as guidance on the correct use of personal protective equipment,” he said. “Our infection control practitioners and staff educators will be providing detailed training sessions across our region. Training will target those staff who work in areas where we would most likely assess and treat a suspected Ebola case such as the ED and the ICU.
“Our hospitals have been provided with protocol to assist staff to identify suspect cases, isolate and treat. These protocols guide healthcare professionals through the steps required and the actions to be taken.”