Monday, October 6, 2014

The Harsh Truth: Too Many U.S. Hospitals Unprepared to Deal With Ebola

Most U.S. Hospitals lack positive pressure suits, or don't know how best to use them especially in disposing of fluid waste.

Contrary to the PR piffle we’ve been fed the past two weeks, it now is clear U.S. hospitals have not been prepared to deal with the emergence of Ebola in the U.S. In fact, had it not been for the incident in Dallas with Thomas Eric Duncan, we’d likely never have learned how pathetically unprepared our hospitals are. All this after the brainiacs at the CDC have been assuring us that ‘oh yes, we are prepared to meet any challenge’.

Let me make it clear that I’ve always detested PR, or public relations. I believe it cripples a country and makes it believe it’s pursuing truth and objective reality when in fact it is encouraging rampant delusion. But the lack of reality and appreciation of it is exactly what can bring a nation down because it obscures the search for real solutions to its problems. The primary fear then is not so much ISIS, or even Ebola, but the uniform incapacity to accept and deal with reality! After all, it was author Chris Hedges in his ‘Empire of Illusion’ who observed that a nation that does not deal with reality will end up in the dustbin of history for all intents.

Let’s take the case of the codswallop we’ve been fed by the CDC about U.S. hospital preparedness for an Ebola outbreak. First, I never bought into this bunkum. Probably because I 've been well aware how far behind the curve most American hospitals and medical centers are,  especially in terms of medical mistakes – basic ones! Look no further than the recent death of Joan Rivers, which as Dr. Mehmet Oz reported on one of his recent shows (Sept. 19th), was due to carelessness and lack of accountability during a basic outpatient procedure called an endoscopy.

This is a procedure I also had some four years ago. It entails introducing an endoscope down the patient’s throat to examine it for any evidence of lesions or cancerous growths. In my case none were found but in Rivers’ case a small tumor was observed on the vocal cords.  At that point Rivers’ own physician – a non-specialist who had no business even being there -  proceeded to take a biopsy and created a critical situation..

As Oz noted, the problem with this was twofold: 1) Rivers signed NO consent form to allow a biopsy to be done at the same time, and 2) when a biopsy is performed on the vocal cords a breathing tube  must have already been inserted into the airway before the procedure because – if not- the excision will cause the cords to swell up and block the throat – preventing air from getting in. This is exactly what happened with Rivers but few people are aware of it.  Thus, the idiot dr. that performed this on the fly, and despite no consent form,  caused Rivers’ passageway to be blocked and an inability to breathe. She went into a coma even as they tried desperate measures to revive her but it was already too late.

It is geniuses like this on whom we are supposed to rely in the case of an Ebola outbreak  - when the most direct and serious solution would be to prevent all non-essential passengers from traveling to the U.S. from the Ebola-affected regions. But oh no, our Neoliberal government, the State Dept. and CDC doesn’t want to send any negative signals out regarding free trade and free travel!  Denver Post Op-Ed columnist Michael S. Woodson wrote yesterday (Perspective, p. 1D, 'U.S. Has Left Itself Open to Ebola Outbreak'):
"A plethora of journalists and the government have emphasized the fact that Ebola is not as contagious as flu viruses to mute justifiable outrage at their policy for leaving such a wide preventable loophole."
What loophole?  Allowing non-essential passenger travel from the West African Ebola outbreak zone  to the U.S. "inviting the uncontrolled exposure of Americans to the Ebola virus." As he also emphasized, Ebola has already been classified by the CDC "as a Class A, bio-terrorism agent". Some have even speculated that ISIS might use Ebola infected pawns to spread the virus - but as Woodson notes:
"A natural versus weaponized Ebola is a distinction without much difference".
In other words,  we ought to treat all those leaving  the hot zone for whatever reason (including 'holiday')  as possible carriers of the virus.  That means shutting down all non-essential air traffic from the West African hot zone - lest we make the U.S. another hot zone. In Woodson's words:

"All non-essential, untraced passenger travel from the Ebola outbreak zone should be banned. All essential relief travel must be screened, and livable, isolated  staging areas set up by the CDC and Department of Homeland Security to observe U.S. entrants until after the incubation period for the Ebola virus has passed."

Clearly, Woodson - like me - doesn't trust the medical infrastructure to do the job to keep us safe. And why the hell should we?

As reported in Saturday’s Denver Post (p.1A, p. 8A) after the Duncan Dallas episode, a CDC official affirmed that “many hospitals remain confused about how they are supposed to react when a suspected patient shows up.”

Seriously?  I thought they all had it covered given the info has been circulating, according to the CDC, since June. I thought from what the assorted CDC honchos have been yapping about on the morning and evening news we were all safe since every hospital in the land knew exactly how to screen for the disease and had the wherewithal – including isolation wards – ready. Turns out it was all bull shit.

The Post piece went on (p. 8A):

The agency sent additional guidance to health care facilities this week, as it has numerous times in recent months, on everything from training personnel to spotting the symptoms of Ebola to using protective gear.”

The article goes on to state that Emory University Hospital (which treated the two American medical volunteers)  has already provided advice to dozens of hospitals, “many of which are struggling with a lack of awareness about safety protocols and fear among workers who feel ill –prepared.”

Oh really? Well, then imagine what the public must feel as all the truth comes out in bits and pieces that our illustrious medical- industrial establishment wasn’t really prepared after all. We are continually told there is no reason to panic and we must not panic, and yet these people have given us no reason not to. They have literally played the fool!

The Post confirmed that the usual PR is still afoot as it noted:

At the White House on Friday, federal officials sought to reassure the public that the nation’s health care system was well equipped to treat the virus and stop it from spreading.”

But pardon me if I don’t buy it. The Dallas case shows this is a PR myth, promoted for expedience so the gov’t can continue to cover its hide while it allows unlimited plane traffic from the affected areas – to appease the airline industry and Neoliberal market capitalists. 

You think these capitalist money grubbers really care about you or your family's welfare? Think again!  They are all about business and profits and that is ALL they care about! They don't want to kill the golden goose never mind that goose may be a Trojan horse for Ebola. Woodson also cites (p. 6D) a White House Fact Sheet that admits more concern for disrupting West African trade than for U.S. health security. He quotes it reading as follows:
"The State Department also has encouraged airlines operating in the region to maintain or reinstate service while ensuring appropriate precautions.  CDC is assisting with exit screening and communications efforts in West Africa to prevent sick passengers from boarding planes. It has also issued interim guidance about Ebola virus infection for airline flight crews, cleaning personnel and cargo personnel."
In other words, go all out to keep those planes flying - take all conceivable precautions -  but halting them isn't on the table.  Woodson goes on NOTE:
"The White House and State Department  argue that flight bans hurt international efforts  to combat the Ebola outbreak in West Africa. However, they fail to distinguish between controlled, essential travel for relief and stability operations versus non-essential travel to the United States."
He has a point.
Further, the admission by numerous hospitals that they aren’t prepared and they’ve had to pick the brains of those at Emory (and now likely Texas Presbyterian too) isn’t designed to instill confidence.  That the feds can remotely make the specious claim the “nation’s health care system is well equipped” to deal with Ebola is ludicrous and they must think we’re stupid or not paying attention. Maybe they believe we’re more entranced by “Survivor” or “Amazing Race” among other diversions, like shopping for the latest tech gizmo.

According to Craig deAtley, administrator of the D.C. Emergency Healthcare Coalition, the Dallas case is now prompting health care institutions across the nation to look at their individual abilities to respond.

Facilities might not realize, for example, how much practical planning goes into training and staffing personnel, configuring isolation rooms, and determining what to do with dirty bedsheets and other waste”,  according to deAtley.

Well the fact that “dozens” of hospitals have had to call up Emory for guidance shows there’s  no “might not” about it – they really don’t know what to do! Ok, let me rephrase that: they didn’t know what to do before they called, and there may be hundreds more that haven’t found out yet. (Maybe they will phone in for guidance after another infected Liberian arrives - say in Tampa - and this time with full blown symptoms. And btw, the case yesterday of a sick Liberian arriving at Newark Airport  - but found not to have Ebola - ought to be another shot over our bow to take action!)

Oh and here’s the real butt kicker (ibid.):

CDC officials acknowledged that widespread hospital awareness didn’t kick in until the Dallas case.”

Right, so we have had to wait until a possible full scale outbreak before our great medical establishment and health care system had all its ducks in a row. Criminy!  And  we're supposed to believe it's now "kicked in"? I doubt it.

More comforting words from Abigail Tumpey, a CDC spokeswoman:

We let our guard down a little bit”

Yuh think?

Keep watching as this saga unfolds, and mind whether action is finally taken to halt all non-essential flights from the hot zone if an outbreak begins in Big D!  If nothing happens, you will know the Neoliberal state places its own welfare over yours!

10/7  Footnote: Supporting my contentions, on CBS this morning is the news of a Sept. 24 Nurse's protest in Las Vegas, with the RNs marching to show their fear that their hospitals are not ready for Ebola. Also, of more than 1500 nurses that responded to an online survey nearly 80 percent said that their "hospital has not communicated to them any policy regarding admission of patients infected by Ebola."   Another Nurse from San Francisco interviewed by John Blackman affirmed her hospital had none of the positive pressure suits she herself had seen on TV.

Then a clip of CDC Honcho Thomas Friedan was shown claiming he wanted health workers to be "scared". He wants them to have a healthy respect for the consequences of any lapse". Fine, Maestro, but then make sure the hospitals are all provided with the wherewithal needed, and until then stop the PR.

No comments: