Four hospitals chosen for treatment of Ebola

Mayor Rahm Emanuel and the Chicago Department of Public Health announced Monday that four Chicago hospitals have agreed to form a network of resource centers that are preparing to provide care in the unlikely event of a patient being diagnosed with Ebola in Chicago.

Rush University Medical Center and the University of Chicago Medical Center for adult and pediatric patients, Northwestern Memorial Hospital for adult patients and Lurie Children’s Hospital of Chicago for pediatric patients agreed to serve in that capacity following a series of meetings with Emanuel and health department officials.

The city began working with local hospitals and providers to make the necessary preparations for what the department calls an unlikely scenario more than two months ago. Emanuel convened a meeting of cabinet members, public health officials and hospital leaders to discuss the benefits of identifying a network of providers that have made intensive preparations as part of a readiness effort, according to the department.

The department said that in the event that someone is suspected of having Ebola at a local health care provider or by first responders, it will work to ensure the patient is kept in isolation following Centers for Disease Control protocols, that blood samples are routed for immediate testing and that the patient is transferred, in isolation, to one of the four hospitals for care following guidelines and protocols from the CDC.

As part of the preparedness efforts, CDC infectious disease specialists are in Chicago this week conducting an audit for the hospitals to determine what updates or additional training could be implemented to further augment the hospital’s abilities to serve these roles.

The health department reports that it has worked with other area hospitals and health care providers over the past several weeks, leading briefings to ensure CDC recommendations are implemented and that hospitals and health care providers are providing the necessary training to staff. The department says that it is providing guidance for health care providers preparing for possible scenarios and to facilitate sharing of hospital-specific protocols.

The department reports that it also has worked with the Chicago Department of Aviation and CDC to implement airport screenings for inbound passengers residing in or traveling from Guinea, Liberia and Sierra Leone, which are the nations hardest hit by Ebola. The new screening procedures were implemented at O’Hare International Airport as well as at Atlanta, Newark, New York City and Dulles airports.

"Even though the chances of an individual being diagnosed in Chicago are still extremely unlikely, we are doing everything we can to ensure our city is prepared to respond quickly and effectively," Emanuel said. "Chicago is home to world-class hospitals and providers, and I am grateful to these institutions for stepping up for our city and our nation."

"By creating a network of providers we are going above and beyond national guidelines to ensure that our city remains healthy and safe from infectious disease," department commissioner Dr. Bechara Choucair said.