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Mass. nurses, state clash over Ebola preparedness

The state's largest nurses union said Massachusetts hospitals are unprepared to deal with an Ebola case, citing a lack of isolation rooms and training.

ebola mount sinai manhattan west africa The Massachusetts Nurses Association says hospitals in the state are unprepared to deal with such a disease.
Credit: Center for Disease Control

The state's largest nurses union has said Massachusetts hospitals are wholly unprepared to deal with an Ebola case, citing a lack of isolation rooms and training.

The statements came this week after a man being treated at a Dallas hospital became the first to be diagnosed with the disease outside of Africa. Ebola has a fatality rate around 50 percent, according to the World Health Organization, and is spread through bodily fluids.

Health officials have stressed the public should not worry about the Dallas case because the virus is contained.

"We are stopping it in its tracks in this country," CDC Director Tom Frieden told NBC News earlier this week.

However, David Schildmeier, spokesman for the Massachusetts Nurses Association (MNA) today gave a grave assessment of the preparedness of hospitals in the state.

"We are absolutely not prepared," he said. "We don't have the number of isolation rooms required. The nurses have not been trained on the issue appropriately. The policies and procedures aren't in place. The staffing levels aren't in place."

He added, "They're working on it, but as usual it's not fast enough. It's a big concern."

The state disagrees with his assessment, saying the Department of Public Health (DPH) has "worked closely over the past several months with health care facilities, doctors and EMS providers to be fully prepared should a case occur."

"Massachusetts is well prepared to handle an incidence of Ebola, in the unlikely event that a case should occur in the commonwealth," said DPH spokeswoman Anne Roach through a statement. "The public can have full confidence that our hospitals have the expertise, preparedness and capacity to handle such a situation. The infectious disease controls in Massachusetts and the United States are world class."

Schildmeier's comments came after the National Nurses United released a survey that asked more than 400 nurses in two dozen states about Ebola preparedness, according to the State House News Service. That outlet reports more than 60 percent said their hospitals were not prepared for Ebola and about 80 percent said their hospitals had not communicated any policy regarding potential admission of patients infected by Ebola. Eighty five percent said their hospital has not provided education on Ebola.

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