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Maricopa County to designate primary Ebola treatment center

PHOENIX – Maricopa County could soon have a primary treatment center in the event of a confirmed or suspected case of Ebola.

According to Reuters, U.S. health officials are looking to improve response and treatment of Ebola by setting up a network of regional primary treatment facilities across the country, and Maricopa County health officials said it’s possible that one of those centers could be designated in Maricopa County.

Rebecca Sunenshine, medical director of disease control at Maricopa County Public Health said the department has already been working internally to prepare hospitals and create a plan in the event of a potential Ebola case in Arizona.

No facility has been designated yet, as there are many factors and preparations that need to be considered when deciding where and how to handle an Ebola patient, Sunenshine said.

“We want to make sure that they’ve had all the training on personal protective equipment, that they have all the equipment available and that staff are competent in performing treatment duties in personal protective equipment,” she said.

It would take much more than simply preparing the hospital and staff though. Sunenshine said it would also take preparation and changes to the broader network of workers that may be involved in care for a patient.

“We have to work with an ambulance system that also has EMS who are trained for personal protective equipment, know how to manage a patient if they get a call from the community or if we have to take a patient from one hospital to another,” Sunenshine said.

Protocols would also have to be put in place to properly sanitize vehicles used to transport patients to make sure there is not a risk to workers or other patients after transportation, Sunenshine said.

Sunenshine said Maricopa County Public Health expects to designate its own primary care facility within Maricopa County to deal with a potential Ebola patient, and there is a possibility that that facility could become one of the proposed U.S. regional centers.

“We do believe that a hospital will be identified as a regional Ebola treatment facility, but we want to make sure that everyone is trained and everyone is comfortable with taking care of an Ebola patient and keeping our healthcare workers safe,” she said.