By Scott Owen
Deputy Chief of EMS, Marshfield Fire and Rescue
Over the past several weeks the Ebola outbreak in West Africa has frequented the headlines, creating numerous questions and concerns. In reviewing our response to a possible Ebola virus patient, the Marshfield Fire and Rescue Department has incorporated some additional safety practices. Emergency responders take an approach to medical and emergency calls with the assumption that all human blood and body fluids might be infectious, and Ebola has just added one more element to that approach.
Ebola is a new test for our national and local preparedness efforts. Marshfield Fire and Rescue Department has been working closely with our community partners (Saint Joseph’s Hospital, Spirit Medical Transportation Services, Marshfield Clinic, and the Wood County Health Department) in practicing response and treatment plans for possible Ebola patients.
We are working to ensure that our county and regional emergency plan is consistent with new information as it is received from the Centers for Disease Control and local and state public health departments. These updates ensure that our response plans provide for the best patient care as well as protection of the patient care providers.
Health care providers, along with dispatch centers, are changing their initial assessment questions to include inquiries into recent travel to West Africa or contact with anyone who is symptomatic and has traveled to West Africa. While these questions may seem awkward to some, they give health care providers a better understanding of the level of protective equipment needed to care for the patient.
The Marshfield Fire and Rescue Department in partnership with St. Joseph’s Hospital, Spirit Medical Transportation Services, Marshfield Police Department, and Wood County Sheriff’s Department participated in an Ebola readiness exercise at St. Joseph’s Hospital on Oct. 29. This exercise covered several critical components for working with patients that potentially may have the virus, including putting on and removing personal protective equipment, patient treatment, and preparing an ambulance for transport.
While we hope we never have to put our plans into use, we are prepared to handle an incident should the need arise.