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Two Las Vegas hospitals conduct deadly disease outbreak drills

Valley hospitals conduct deadly disease outbreak drills. (KSNV)

Two Dignity Health hospitals and the Henderson fire department made sure they are ready for something that will hopefully never happen.

They conducted a drill today to make sure staff and first responders know exactly what to do to contain a highly contagious disease, like the deadly Ebola virus.

The drill began with a woman arriving at the Rose de Lima emergency room pretending to exhibit symptoms resembling Ebola. At that point, the staff was expected to evaluate the patient to determine what steps were necessary.

Dr. Thomas Burns, Chief Nurse Executive Officer with Dignity Health said, “Our expectation as an acute care hospital in the highly infectious disease realm is centered around making sure the staff can recognize the signs and symptoms of those disease processes, then act quickly to get that patient isolated.”

During this isolation, doctors follow strict protocols from a checklist before entering the isolation unit where the patient is treated. That includes strict guidelines on exactly how to put on protective clothing to keep the infectious disease from spreading to the doctors, the hospital staff, and into the community.

ER Dr. Donald Bennett, who took part in today’s drill, says the concern with Ebola goes beyond the patient. “The pressure for a possible Ebola patient is intense,” said Dr. Bennett. “You start thinking more about the patient, how you’re going to keep yourself safe, how you’re going to keep the staff safe, keep the community safe.“

The Henderson fire department also took part in today’s drill to transport the patient. EMS Chief Kim Moore says the hospital notifies them and the Southern Nevada Health District. “They let us know, they do all the notification to the health district and they let us get prepared to do an actual treatment and transport of the patient,” said Moore.

That means stripping down the back of the ambulance and sealing off the driver's compartment. The ambulance crew also suits up in protective gear before the fictitious Ebola patient is put inside the ambulance and the transport process begins.

Within minutes, the drill concludes at the St. Rose Dominican San Martin campus, one of only three Federally designated frontline assessment centers in the valley for highly contagious disease.

The fake Ebola patient was then transferred from the ambulance to the isolation unit, where the drill ended, and evaluation took place.

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