ebola preparedness riverside
Doug Smith, an emergency operations officer at Riverside Regional Medical Center, looks through the contents of an Ebola virus disease (EVD) isolation cart inside of a decontamination room. The cart is pre-stocked with materials for healthcare providers for rapid response to  an Ebola-infected patient. (Kaitlin McKeown, Daily Press / October 23, 2014)

By Christine Sampson, csampson@vagazette.com

Riverside Doctors' Hospital and Sentara Williamsburg Regional Medical Center have been busy modifying facilities and taking precautions in case a patient arrives with Ebola-like symptoms or receives an actual diagnosis.

Sentara announced this week it has created isolation units at its Williamsburg and Virginia Beach hospitals to receive any Ebola patients from across its health system. In a news release, Sentara said both locations have ground-level observation rooms with direct access from the outside located next to their emergency departments, which means patients will not have to pass through any other part of the hospitals.

Likewise, each hospital has adjacent spaces where medical teams can put on and take off protective "personal protective equipment" and shower without passing through other areas. Licensed contractors will dispose of any hazardous medical waste. Two of Sentara's ambulances are being equipped to transport Ebola patients, and about 20 additional team members will be given additional training and equipment.

According to the release, the two Sentara hospitals are also installing negative pressure units. According to an Oct. 24 report by the publication Scientific American, a negative air pressure room is equipped to send "cleaned, filtered air at all times into the patient room while preventing air - along with potentially infectious particles - from escaping out into the rest of the hospital."

"Recent experience around the country points to concentration of resources and expertise as an emerging best practice," Dr. Scott Miller, an infectious disease physician and chair of the Sentara Ebola Task Force, said in a statement. "These two hospitals have the right kind of facilities that we can readily adapt for this purpose."

The Daily Press reported Oct. 19 that the Riverside Health System converted four rooms in its ER department into an isolation triage area for two patients. Riverside has also created a rolling cart system for personal protective equipment for two clinicians, including disposable thermometers, radios, stethoscopes and pre-assembled lab kits. The hospital told the Daily Press it has Tychem body suits and face-covering masks with respirators - including five in the ER and more on other floors - that it acquired during the avian flu scare in 2007. Riverside has also trained its staff in a buddy sustem that will ensure that the protective gear is used properly, such as double-gloving, taping sleeves and using hand sanitizer and bleach spray.

In an email to the Gazette on Tuesday, Caitlyn Worner, a representative of the Riverside Health System, said Riverside's facilities "are using an abundance of caution."

"We have been working diligently at Riverside to prepare our hospitals, physician offices, specialty practices and lifelong health facilities in the event that a patient with Ebola symptoms and history of travel presents at one of our facilities," she said. "We are following the CDC guidelines, plus our internal infection disease protocols that actually go above and beyond the CDC protocols."

Published: October 29, 2014