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State: All Mass. hospitals prepared for suspected Ebola cases


By Andy Metzger


STATE HOUSE — While New York City has tasked a Manhattan hospital with handling potential Ebola cases, Massachusetts has not designated any particular medical facility for cases within Bay State borders and officials say all Massachusetts hospitals are ready for suspect cases.

A Department of Public Health (DPH) official said Massachusetts has no comparable system of designating a particular hospital or hospitals to handle Ebola cases.

The Massachusetts Hospital Association said the transfer of patients would be coordinated by the DPH, which says every hospital in Massachusetts is capable of handling a case of Ebola, the disease that has killed thousands in West Africa.

Public Health Commissioner Cheryl Bartlett told reporters Tuesday that the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention has been in touch with health officials from states about the potential for identifying additional hospitals to handle Ebola cases around the country. She said handling of suspect cases in Massachusetts has demonstrated the medical sector’s ability to deal with the virus.

“To date Massachusetts hasn’t been identified specifically, but I think because we’ve had several dozen suspect cases that have all been handled very well with the existing infection control and public health infrastructure that we have here in Massachusetts, that we’re very well prepared to handle a case here,” Bartlett told reporters at Logan Airport during a press conference on preparedness efforts.

A DPH spokesman said Wednesday that all Massachusetts hospitals are prepared to handle suspected Ebola cases.

Media reports have indicated there are four hospitals around the nation uniquely prepared to handle cases of Ebola, located in Montana, Nebraska, Maryland and Atlanta, Georgia.

The Massachusetts Hospital Association said DPH helps coordinate the triage and transfer of patients who exhibit suspected Ebola symptoms.

“All hospitals are working with DPH to ensure appropriate statewide and regional coordination of services provided to patients who arrive in the emergency department with suspected symptoms of Ebola,” MHA said in a statement to the News Service on Wednesday. “All hospitals have a process to care for patients with suspected symptoms of Ebola and can triage/transfer patients as appropriate, which would be coordinated through the Department of Public Health.”

At Tuesday’s press conference, Bartlett said multiple meetings are held about Ebola and said, “Every day we are preparing for the possibility.”

New York City’s Health and Hospitals Corporation has created a special unit to handle potential Ebola cases at Bellevue Hospital, and said health care workers are involved in a “buddy system” intended “to ensure that a breach of infection control protocol does not occur.”

The New York Times reported Bellevue would handle any confirmed Ebola cases from the 11-member public hospital system, and could receive transfers from private hospitals. Within the past week, patients in the Boston area with suspected Ebola-like symptoms have reportedly been transferred to Beth Israel Deaconess Medical Center, Boston Medical Center and Massachusetts General Hospital.

There have been no confirmed cases of Ebola in Massachusetts and DPH has generally declined to comment on anything but confirmed cases.

On Wednesday, the CDC announced a second Texas Presbyterian Hospital medical worker has tested positive for Ebola and had flown from Cleveland to Dallas/Fort Worth the day before presenting with symptoms.

President Barack Obama postponed a planned trip to New Jersey and Connecticut on Wednesday, and planned to convene a meeting with Cabinet agencies to coordinate the Ebola response.

Michael Norton contributed reporting.