The Next Ebola Is Coming: Are Facilities Prepared?
Americans “have a very short attention span,” warned Dr. Bruce Ribner, medical director of the Emory University Hospital Serious Communicable Diseases Unit, during a Capitol Hill briefing in early October. As the editor of a magazine that’s constantly on the lookout for what’s next, I have to admit, he’s got a point. When the Ebola epidemic hit the States, we were very focused on creating and sharing content on containment units and other design strategies for infection control. It's not that infection control isn’t still very high on our list of important topics—but we see fewer story pitches now on designing spaces specifically tailored to isolating highly contagious diseases, and when we do, it’s hard not to feel like it’s “old news.”
Yet it’s been just over a year since the Ebola panic. And as Ribner told his audience in D.C. (as reported in the Washington Times), “There will be another infectious disease outbreak, and it’s probably going to be with an agent that I don’t have on my slide.”
Ribner’s own budget at Emory—one of the very few hospitals in the U.S. that was equipped to care for Ebola patients last summer—was cut by two-thirds, he said. He urged that funding for proper care and control of the spread of highly communicable diseases is critical. And not just when crisis rears its head; added Dr. James DeLuc, director of the Galveston National Laboratory, “The problem is sustainability. We’ve got to make sure there’s a constant pipeline of funding.”
If you’re attending the Healthcare Design Expo & Conference next month, also in D.C., you can learn more specifics about current isolation units and future planning efforts in the sessions “Effective Biocontainment Unit Design in the Age of Ebola” and “Ebola-Ready: The Special Isolation Unit at Texas Children’s Hospital” (a project I also wrote about here).
I’m very excited that the 2015 HCD Expo & Conference is right around the corner, and I look forward to seeing and talking with many of you on-site. In healthcare, complacency can have catastrophic consequences, and educational events like these are an incredible vehicle for making sure we keep our eyes on the ball, always.