Carle achieves Ebola Treatment Center designation

The call will come. The clock is ticking. 90 minutes to be ready.

“Carle is positioned for whatever comes next. While the immediate threat for Ebola has passed, our team is trained and ready for the next highly infectious outbreak,” said Matthew Gibb, MD, executive vice president and system chief medical officer.

Carle is officially an Ebola Treatment Center, a designation two years in the making, distinguishing Carle as an institution that rises to occasion when a need arises. Carle responded when the Centers for Disease Control put out a call asking hospitals to step up in this way.

“I would like to commend Carle for its dedication and hard work in becoming a designated Ebola Treatment Center,” said Illinois Department of Public Health Director Nirav D. Shah, M.D., J.D. “It is vital that hospitals are prepared and able to handle highly infectious and potentially deadly diseases. Even if we are not seeing cases of Ebola in Illinois or the U.S., the steps it takes to become an Ebola Treatment Center will help medical professionals prepare for and contain similar types of diseases. ”

Amy Bandy, RN, director of hospital operations and inpatient Surgical Services, said while the immediate threat for Ebola has subsided, the unit stands ready.

“Nothing’s bubbling, but as soon as we let our guard down, something new emerges. It can get out of hand quickly like MERS in Canada or SARS in Asia. With our diverse international community, we can see diseases that spread quickly,” she said.

Caring for a patient who does or might have Ebola, or any other highly infectious disease, in a safe and secure environment is of utmost importance for patients and staff alike.

Brad Ryan, RN, Critical Care Unit, said the team runs drills to limit exposure from the time of transport by ambulance to the isolation room. The team is all volunteer given additional requirements and risk, but Ryan’s family isn’t surprised he’s part of it.

“They know I’m here to help and that we’re prepared. I’m a relative expert in PPE. I’ve put it on more than 100 times,” Ryan said, adding “The additional protection requires a buddy system to ensure there is no skin exposure or air getting in.”

His routine preparation to care for patients takes about one minute, but with PPE it can take up to 10. Extra protective gear includes disposable scrubs, Crocs, booties, full-body suit, two layers of gloves and a self-contained hood.

The rigorous standards and expectations for enhanced physical space, staff training, equipment and isolation procedures ensure Carle meet Centers for Disease Control CDC guidelines.

Carle remodeled rooms in the hospital and upgraded infrastructure to care for a patient with Ebola. The ETC unit includes:

  • A negative-pressure isolation room to house a patient and keep air from circulating with the rest of the hospital.
  • Dedicated lab space to safely handle specimens from a patient.
  • Communications equipment to enable the patient to speak with physicians and family safely.

The approval process included two site visits from the nation’s experts in Ebola treatment from National Ebola Training and Education Center (NETEC), representatives from Illinois Department of Public Health and the Emergency Management Coalition including Emory, Bellevue and Nebraska facilities. They recommended Carle for a final review from the Association for Professionals in Infection Control and Epidemiology or APIC, which conducts the assessments on behalf of the CDC.

Previously, Chicago housed all of Illinois’ Ebola Treatment Centers at Lurie Children’s Hospital, Northwestern Memorial Hospital and Rush University Medical Center. Carle becomes the fourth following years of planning, training and investment serving downstate Illinois and neighboring states. The CDC reports only 63 ETCs exist.

Resources at smaller facilities aren’t as robust, and as an ETC, it is Carle’s responsibility to serve the Midwest in this capacity.

“We’ll continue to meet with IDPH and watch for blips,” Bandy said.

It means Carle stays prepared to treat even the most challenging infectious diseases.

“This is a significant responsibility, and that commitment by our clinical care team distinguishes us an as institution that rises to the occasion when a need arises. We’re looking ahead to prepare for the next high-risk infection that we’ll no doubt encounter,” Gibb said.