Healthy Choices

Two Sacramento hospitals appear on CDC list of Ebola treatment centers

Federal health officials on Tuesday named two Sacramento hospitals on its list of 35 national Ebola treatment centers that are ready to treat confirmed or suspected cases of the deadly virus.

Kaiser Permanente South Sacramento Medical Center and UC Davis Medical Center in Sacramento are two of only four California facilities to appear on the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services list. The other two are also in Northern California: the University of California San Francisco Medical Center and Kaiser Permanente Oakland Medical Center.

The four hospitals will be the state’s main sites for treating patients who are suspected or confirmed to have the virus, which is transmitted via bodily fluids. A U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention team, in collaboration with state health officials, has to conduct an on-site assessment before a hospital can be federally designated.

The CDC Rapid Ebola Preparedness team is expected to assess three Southern California UC hospitals – Los Angeles, Irvine and San Diego – as well as Kaiser Permanente Los Angeles Medical Center, next week, said state health officer Dr. Ron Chapman in an email. He is confident these centers will also gain federal recognition.

In October, the University of California Office of the President informed the California Department of Public Health that its medical centers at Davis, San Francisco, Los Angeles, Irvine and San Diego were prepared to act as priority care facilities for the state.

Until Southern California hospitals are added to the list, the four Northern California hospitals have eight beds available to treat Ebola patients, though there are no cases or suspected cases in California. The CDC confirmed that these centers have the training, capabilities and resources necessary to treat the virus while minimizing the risk to health care workers. This requires specialized isolation rooms, personal protective equipment, waste disposal measures and staffing plans, according to CDC guidelines.

Kaiser Permanente recently made significant efforts to increase its Ebola preparedness in its selected hospitals, including offering staff basic classes on the virus and implementing daily simulation training on how to identify and treat possible Ebola patients, said Dr. John Belko, chief of infectious disease at Kaiser Permanente South Sacramento.

The facility encountered a suspected Ebola case in August, which Belko said made it better equipped to enhance preparation later on.

“It reflects on our staff,” he said of the national recognition. “They stepped up and were freaked out, and we helped them get the information that they needed. They said, ‘Let’s figure out how to do this right together.’ It was really awesome how everyone came together across disciplines to do the right thing.”

At the UC Davis Medical Center protocol instructors conducted daily trainings on how to put on and remove personal protective equipment. Carol Robinson, the medical center’s chief patient care services officer, said last month UC Davis has ordered about 1,500 air-purifying respirators and has systems in place for waste disposal.

More than 80 percent of returning travelers from Ebola-stricken countries live within 200 miles of an Ebola treatment center, according to a U.S. Department of Health and Human Services press release. The CDC has assessed over 50 hospitals so far.

Call The Bee’s Sammy Caiola, (916) 321-1636.