- Associated Press - Tuesday, October 21, 2014

NEW YORK (AP) - Some 5,000 New York health-care workers gathered Tuesday for a step-by-step demonstration of new protocols for treating Ebola patients from city, state and federal health officials.

“We’re here today because one health care worker getting Ebola while caring for a patient is too many,” said Dr. Arjun Srinivasan of the federal Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

Srinivasan addressed the meeting at Manhattan’s Jacob K. Javits Convention Center the day after the CDC issued new Ebola guidelines that set strict rules for hand washing and call for full-body garb and hoods that protect worker’s necks.

“Clean hands save lives,” Srinivasan said as he instructed health-care workers to wash their hands and gloves with disinfectant at each step of the laborious process of suiting up for treating an Ebola patient.

Dr. Bryan Christensen of the CDC’s Ebola response team and Mount Sinai Health System nurse Barbara Smith demonstrated how to put the recommended gear on.

The equipment included two pairs of gloves, shoe coverings that go up to mid-calf, a fluid-resistant gown, a respirator, a hood that covers the neck, ears and hair and a face shield that covers the eyes.

Christensen and Smith showed how to put the protective garments on and how to remove them after a health worker has treated an Ebola patient. The gown should be touched from the inside, for example, as the outside could be contaminated with infected bodily fluids. After it is removed, each item must be disinfected and then discarded.

The new guidelines call for health workers who may be involved in an Ebola patient’s care to repeatedly practice and demonstrate proficiency in donning and doffing gear before ever being allowed near a patient.

The CDC cannot require hospitals to follow the protocols, but hospitals are expected to follow them as they face the possibility of encountering patients with a deadly infectious disease that a few months ago had never been seen in this country.

Officials drew up the guidelines after two nurses in Dallas became infected with Ebola while treating Thomas Eric Duncan, who died of the disease Oct. 8.

“Our hearts go out to them and their families,” New York City Mayor Bill de Blasio said of the Dallas nurses, Nina Pham and Amber Vinson. “Our prayers are with them.”

Gov. Andrew Cuomo said New York will be prepared if the state gets a confirmed Ebola case. “Dallas didn’t have an opportunity to come together like we’re coming together,” he said.

The nurses and other health workers who attended Tuesday’s session, members of Local 1199 of the Service Employees International Union, watched the demonstration on big screens scattered throughout the cavernous hall.

Nurse Andree Charles said she took notes so she could share the information with her co-workers at a Bronx nursing home.

“You have to practice,” she said. “You don’t want infected equipment to touch any part of your body.”

Hospital maintenance worker Lawrence Barmore said the process of putting on protective gear seemed long and involved.

“It takes an hour to get ready,” he said. “Another hour to get undressed. The patient would be dead by the time you get in the room.”



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