of Delaware Valley Healthcare Council of HAP
the Joint Committees on Public Health & Human Services and Public Safety
Council of the City of Philadelphia
Emergency Preparedness Manager
& Healthsystem Association of Pennsylvania
October 16, 2014
Honorable Chairwoman Tasco and Chairman
Jones, thank you for the opportunity to provide comments regarding the city’s
preparedness to address health emergencies related to infectious diseases, such
My name is Mark Ross, Regional
Emergency Preparedness Manager, for The Hospital & Healthsystem Association
of Pennsylvania (HAP). HAP represents and advocates for the nearly 240 acute
and specialty care hospitals and health systems in Pennsylvania and the
patients they serve.
As part of HAP, the Delaware Valley Healthcare Council of
HAP (DVHC of HAP) represents the more than 60 acute and specialty care
hospitals and health systems in southeastern Pennsylvania. In my role as
regional emergency preparedness manager for southeastern Pennsylvania, I
support these hospitals and health systems, including the facilities and
systems here in Philadelphia.
DVHC of HAP’s testimony will
focus on these main points:
- The hospital community is following the
guidance of, and working with, local, state, and national public health
authorities to do everything possible to prevent the possibility of an Ebola
outbreak here or anywhere in the U.S.
- Hospitals have extensive expertise and
experience in treating serious infectious diseases.
- Hospital staff are trained and prepared to
identify, protect against, isolate, and treat an array of infectious and
contagious diseases from influenza to anthrax and Ebola.
- Safety comes first in hospital preparations
to address Ebola. The safety of hospital patients, staff, volunteers, and the
community at large is a hospital’s first focus.
- Hospitals have been working together with
government colleagues for more than a decade to plan, train, exercise, and prepare
for “all-hazards” emergencies, including public health emergencies due to
infectious diseases both from terrorism and natural sources.
Hospitals Are Following Public Health
Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) is the lead agency for the
nation’s response to the threat of Ebola. The Pennsylvania Department of Health
is the lead governmental agency for public health and infectious disease
outbreaks, including Ebola, in Pennsylvania. Within the City of Philadelphia,
the Philadelphia Department of Public Health is leading the Ebola response.
DVHC of HAP and Philadelphia
hospitals have a long history of working with the city’s health department to
address public health problems. The health department has hosted several conference
calls and provided health alerts and other guidance to make sure that hospitals
understand and are ready and able to identify potentially contagious patients
and implement procedures needed to keep Philadelphians safe.
DVHC of HAP, hospitals,
and other stakeholders are working with the health department to make sure that
Philadelphia’s health care system is prepared to respond to Ebola.
The guidance and recommendations
from national, state, and local public health authorities are evolving in
response to the changing situation as we care for several health care workers
who have become infected with Ebola on U.S. soil. DVHC of HAP and the hospital
community have been monitoring new public heath guidance as it becomes
available. We are making sure that hospitals have this guidance and are
implementing it, and we will continue to do so.
Have Expertise and Experience in Treating Serious Infectious Diseases
Pennsylvania hospitals prepare for all
types of emergencies every day in order to provide necessary care for their
patients and communities. Every hospital has plans, protocols, and appropriate
supplies and equipment in place to care for patients with an array of
infectious diseases including Ebola.
clinical staff are trained in standard infection control procedures as part of
their educational curriculum prior to being employed by a hospital. All
clinicians must demonstrate their knowledge of these procedures prior to being
licensed to practice. Once they are employed by a hospital, clinicians are
provided additional training on an ongoing basis. As part of accreditation by
The Joint Commission and other organizations, hospital staff must complete
annual safety training, which includes training in infection control protocols.
Ebola is just one of a host of serious
infectious diseases hospitals must be prepared to identify and safely treat
each and every day. The list includes enterovirus-D68; middle east respiratory
syndrome coronavirus, or MERS; and Chikungunya; as well as more common diseases
such as meningitis, malaria, Dengue fever, and influenza.
Working closely with
the Philadelphia Department of Public Heath, the hospital community has in the
past effectively responded to the emergence of new and serious infectious
diseases, including H1N1, also known as swine flu, and severe acute respiratory
syndrome, or SARS.
Are Ready to Detect, Protect Against, Isolate, and Treat Ebola
All hospitals are prepared to perform
medical screening of all patients seeking care, including those who may have an
infectious disease. This screening includes a brief medical history, detection
of any symptoms of illness and—with the emergence of Ebola—a travel history.
have procedures in place to quickly isolate any patients who are identified
through this screening process and to notify the appropriate public health
Philadelphia Department of Public Health, the Pennsylvania Department
of Public Health, and the CDC have many guidance documents and other
resources specific to Ebola.
For example, the CDC has provided a detailed
hospital checklist for Ebola preparedness. The checklist outlines specific
clinical steps for both screening and providing care to patients who are
suspected to have Ebola, along with all the actions hospitals should take to
ensure that their employees are prepared should an Ebola patient arrive at the
Comes First in Hospital Preparations to Address Ebola
Hospitals and health systems are
dedicated to protecting the safety and health of their patients and visitors,
staff, volunteers, and community at large in all types of emergencies,
including serious infectious diseases such as Ebola. As stated, hospitals are
implementing national, state, and city recommendations regarding the most
effective, and safest, ways to detect, protect against, isolate, and treat
example, Philadelphia hospitals are following current guidance that hospital
workers should wear personal protective equipment whenever they come into
contact with a patient who is suspected to have been infected with the Ebola
virus. These precautions are consistent with normal practice standards and are the
standard precautions health care workers use whenever they are caring for any
patient with any potentially infectious disease.
The emergence of the Ebola virus in
the U.S., the infection of several health care workers in Dallas who cared for
an Ebola patient there, and related media attention has served to heighten the
awareness of all hospitals and health care workers of the importance of
following strict infection control procedures.
Government and Philadelphia Hospitals Are Prepared for Emergencies of All Kinds
For more than a decade government,
hospitals, and other stakeholders have worked together to identify and prepare for
the many different types of emergencies that could impact the city, region,
state, and nation. This “all-hazards” approach to preparedness is a recognized
best practice and includes preparation for emergencies related to weather,
public health, and terrorist events.
HAP, DVHC of HAP, and hospitals
collaborate regularly with the Philadelphia Department of Public Health, the
Philadelphia Office of Emergency Management, and other city agencies on this
Thank you again for convening this hearing
to consider this important issue.