Vernon Jubilee Hospital staff are preparing for a potential case of Ebola.
The Interior Health Authority says there was staff training Friday to respond to the infectious disease, and that process will continue.
“We’re making sure the appropriate protective equipment is available where nurses need them,” said Dr. Andrew Larder, senior medical health officer.
“We’ve begun education and training for taking off the protective equipment.”
The World Health Organization reports that the number of Ebola cases in the African countries of Sierra Leone, Guinea and Liberia is about 9,000. An individual who had been in West Africa has also died from the disease in Texas and two nurses there became ill.
“People within IH have been following the outbreak since it occurred in West Africa and the level of response has changed since time has gone on,” said Larder, adding the risk in North America has grown since health care workers helping in Africa have returned.
“The transmission to nursing staff in Texas and Spain has focused attention on staff on the frontline being ready to deal with this.
IHA has established a working group to review procedures in case an individual with Ebola-like symptoms arrives at a hospital.
“How do we make sure people are protected? Where do we put them in the hospital? How do we transport them and how do we get lab specimens?” said Larder.
A website has also been established so IHA staff can access up-to-date information.
While there is a lot of media and public focus on Ebola, Larder says many of the procedures and equipment are already being used within IHA.
“There are other infectious diseases transmitted in the same way as Ebola,” he said, adding that beyond hospitals, steps must be taken at doctors’ offices.
“We learned from SARS that doctors need to ask people, ‘Do you have a fever, have you been travelling?’”
The B.C. Nurses Union has expressed concerns about IHA’s policies regarding Ebola, but Larder is confident the appropriate steps are being taken.
“We are responding to the concerns being raised and we’re taking the steps necessary to reassure people,” he said.
“The chance of it happening (here) are low but it could happen. People in the Okanagan are going to those countries and doing relief work.”