Long Island hospitals plan to train and drill staffers on procedures for donning and removing protective equipment after a Dallas nurse developed Ebola, the first case of the deadly viral infection contracted in the United States.
"Over the next week or so, we will be running drills and very intense education [sessions] for all of the staff on how to don the personal protective equipment and how best to remove it," said Dr. Barry Rosenthal, chairman of emergency medicine at Winthrop-University Hospital in Mineola.
"Putting on personal protective equipment actually is easier than taking it off," Rosenthal said, describing gloves, goggles, booties and other gear to prevent infection.
At the North Shore-Long Island Jewish Health System, staff members were drilled Monday at the Bioskills Center in Lake Success on how to put on and take off barrier clothing.
Dr. Bruce Hirsch, chief of infectious diseases, said staff drills have begun amid concerns about the possibility of Ebola emerging elsewhere in the country.
Over the weekend, five West African passengers out of the 91 screened at Kennedy Airport were held for a lengthy examination. A newly stepped-up surveillance system at the airport includes taking passengers' temperatures and having them answer a questionnaire.
"The discussions we've had at North Shore-LIJ have focused on having a monitor for each person," Hirsch said of pairing health care workers as they put on and take off protective clothing.
"There have been some requests for hazmat suits, but that of course would have its own problems. Something like this could pose a huge infrastructure change."
Dr. Victor Politi, chief executive of Nassau University Medical Center in East Meadow, said his staff has been drilled repeatedly on donning and removing protective gear -- the most recent session last week -- but additional ones are scheduled.
What's important, he said, is finding out what went wrong in Dallas, which would explain how the nurse became infected.
"We are still trying to find out exactly what she did," Politi said Monday. "Unfortunately in life you learn from tragedies as much as you do from successes.
"Here at NUMC, we are a Level 1 trauma center. The protective equipment that we give our staff is the impermeable type. So we have the proper equipment."
Dr. Thomas Frieden, director of the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, said Monday that experts at his agency are revisiting what had long been considered stringent protocols for donning and removing protective gear. He said he had no idea how the Dallas nurse became infected with the deadly hemorrhagic fever virus.
The nurse is said to have been fully garbed in protective gear throughout the time she cared for Thomas Eric Duncan, who died last week of Ebola.
Dr. Aaron Glatt, chief executive of Mercy Medical Center in Rockville Centre, said while there are plans to update professionals at his institution on the proper use of personal protective equipment, several questions remain that must be answered about the Dallas nurse.
"I certainly would like to understand what happened in Texas," said Glatt, a specialist in infectious diseases and a spokesman for the Infectious Diseases Society of America. "There are appropriate ways to put on and take off personal protective equipment.
"Our staff is knowledgeable about personal protective equipment. Depending on what the CDC identifies there may be a need for re-education, but that is very preliminary at this point."