university-of-iowa-hospitalHospital staffs across Iowa are preparing to handle Ebola patients, should the need arise. At the University of Iowa Hospitals and Clinics, infectious diseases professor Dr. Michael Edmond says there are only four biocontainment units in the United States, so other hospitals must be prepared.

“We could handle Ebola patients,” Dr. Edmond says. “We do not have a specific biocontainment unit of the sort that is located at the University of Nebraska, Emory University or the National Institutes of Health.”

The closest biocontainment unit, at the Nebraska Medical Center in Omaha, is now caring for its second Ebola patient. That facility has ten beds in its specialized unit and it’s the largest one in the country. “The number of those beds in the United States is very limited and if we exceed the capacity of those, other hospitals may be called on to provide this type of care,” Edmond says.

He says hundreds of University of Iowa staff are being trained to handle patients with the potentially-deadly virus. “It’s affecting the personnel who would see these patients,” Edmond says. “This would be our health care providers in the emergency department where patients are most likely to present first and the unit of the hospital, inside the hospital, where patients who are suspect or are confirmed to have Ebola would be housed once they’re admitted to the hospital.”

Edmond, who serves as the University Hospitals’ chief quality officer, says the Iowa City facility has all of the protective equipment that’s specified now. “The problem is that this is a moving target,” he says. “CDC will be, in short order, revising some of the protocols for personal protective equipment and we will have to redo our training to be in line with those protocols.”

Ebola is blamed in more than 4,000 deaths during the latest outbreak in West Africa. Edmond made his comments on the Iowa Public Radio’s program “River to River.”