10/21/14: Erie County, Health Care Partners Stress Ebola Preparedness, Collaboration, Vigilance

Modified: January 23, 2015 3:18pm

Latest News


Erie County Executive Mark C. Poloncarz (at podium) is joined by (L-R) Kaleida Health’s Dr. John Sellick, Jr., Catholic Health’s Dr. Brian D’Arcy, ECMC’s Dr. Brian Murray, and Erie County Health Commissioner Dr. Gale Burstein on Tuesday to discuss Erie County’s preparation and readiness for a potential pandemic illness such as the Ebola virus. Officials and health care partners stressed the strong partnerships, vigilant processes, and open lines of communication that are in place to help meet such a health emergency if it should occur.

County Department of Health, Catholic Health, ECMC, Kaleida Affirm Partnerships, Preparation

ERIE COUNTY, NY— Today, Erie County Executive Mark C. Poloncarz was joined by Erie County Commissioner of Health Dr. Gale Burstein, SVP/Chief Medical Officer for Catholic Health  Dr. Brian D’Arcy, Erie County Medical Center (“ECMC”) Chief Medical Officer Dr. Brian Murray, and Associate Professor of Medicine (Division of Infectious Diseases) at the University at Buffalo, Kaleida Health, and the VAMC Dr. John Sellick, Jr. to discuss Erie County’s preparations and readiness for a potential pandemic illness such as the Ebola virus if it should present locally. Ebola virus disease (“EVD”), formerly known as Ebola hemorrhagic fever, is a severe, often fatal illness in humans. The current outbreak in West Africa is the largest and most complex Ebola outbreak since the Ebola virus was first discovered in 1976, with more cases and deaths in this outbreak than all others combined.

“Protecting public health depends on strong partnerships, vigilant processes, and interconnected lines of communication and support. Here in Erie County, we are fortunate to have these three critical components already in place and are prepared for any pandemic illness, including for a ‘first case’ of Ebola, a case that may never come but that we need to be ready for,” said Erie County Executive Mark C. Poloncarz. “Ebola has been in the news a lot lately and incessant coverage of the outbreak, missteps from other agencies, and misinformation have created an atmosphere of fear and distrust. Working with our health care partners, the Erie County Department of Health is ready to meet the challenge if the Ebola virus should present in Erie County.”

Health Commissioner Burstein added, “The Department of Health’s epidemiology team has undergone extensive training and education to identify and address possible Ebola exposure and is ready to work with our partners to ensure patient, staff, and public safety if Ebola virus is seen locally. It is important to remember that the virus is spread only through transmission of bodily fluids, not through the air, so the possibility of being exposed to an active virus is extremely low.”

Catholic Health has an interdisciplinary workgroup that has been meeting regularly to implement a comprehensive Ebola Response Plan in the event a patient with possible Ebola exposure presents at one of its hospitals, health centers or within the community. That plan involves identifying patients who meet the criteria for possible Ebola Virus Disease (EVD) at their earliest point of entry; isolating those patients; and providing CDC-recommended medical management to care for the patient, prevent the spread of the virus, and first and foremost, protect the welfare and safety of Catholic Health associates. The workgroup has conducted thorough walkthroughs of all Catholic Health Emergency Departments to assess staff readiness and provide needed training, including Ebola response drills; establish isolated treatment zones; and ensure needed personal protective equipment (PPE) is readily available. 

“As with all emergency preparedness, we are providing mandatory training and education to give associates the information and tools they need to support our Ebola containment efforts and to safely care for possible Ebola patients,” said Dr. Brian D’Arcy, SVP/Chief Medical Officer for Catholic Health. “While we hope we never have to implement our plan, we are taking the necessary steps to ensure we are prepared to provide the highest quality care in the safest manner possible.”

In accordance with the New York State Commissioner of Health's directive and along with other hospitals in the region, ECMC has implemented the questioning protocol in the Emergency Room and all Outpatient Clinics, as well as other areas that could potentially be the first point of contact for an Ebola patient. Staff has been instructed to inquire about recent travel to the three affected African countries or contact with people returning from those areas and the correct procedures to follow should they receive a positive response. ECMC has identified appropriate isolation rooms where potential Ebola patients can be isolated, assessed and initially stabilized medically, and has also provided training to specific personnel who would come in contact with a potential Ebola patient in the use of Personal Protective Equipment (“PPE”). Personnel are also directly observed to ensure they have learned the correct application and removal of PPE. With regard to the equipment, ECMC has also purchased high level PPE to be used consistent with the most current CDC recommendations.

“While we are confident we are ready, we realize that information and guidance is changing daily and we are partnering with the Erie County Department of Health, NYSDOH, and the CDC to ensure the most current information is part of our plan. We are receiving new information daily and we are continuing to adapt our plan and are trying to meet the highest standards,” said ECMC Chief Medical Officer Dr. Brian Murray. “The bottom-line is that we are confident that we are prepared, but self-aware that we must continue to challenge our processes and plans to ensure the very best protection for our staff and patients.”

Key stakeholders involved in the biological management plan have been working to ensure Kaleida Health is meeting the expert guidance for Ebola. Early identification and isolation of a potential Ebola case have been evaluated at all of the Kaleida sites (drills and actual events) and have demonstrated a state of readiness in the Emergency Departments.  Also, Kaleida has ensured placement of signs & stands with masks at all entry points, is procuring various supplies and has staff undergoing training involving all aspects of a potential Ebola case.

“The travel history is critical, and taking detailed travel histories on each patient presenting with fever, gastrointestinal symptoms, headache or muscle aches is now a top priority for hospitals and medical providers,” Dr. John Sellick, Jr. said. “It now must be a key part of every interaction a health care worker has with each patient. Providers can no longer assume because of what someone looks like, that a patient probably hasn’t traveled out of the surrounding neighborhood.”


For more information:

On the Erie County Department of Health, visit http://www2.erie.gov/health/

On Catholic Health, visit http://www.chsbuffalo.org/

On ECMC, visit http://www.ecmc.edu/

On Kaleida Health, visit http://www.kaleidahealth.org/