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Upstate hospital receives training to handle possible Ebola patients


New York State Health Department officials are in Syracuse this week looking at how SUNY Upstate Medical University is preparing to become one of two hospitals in upstate New York designated to deal with Ebola patients.

Being an Ebola hospital means Upstate has to be ready on three fronts, according to hospital CEO John McCabe.

"One is identifying the patients early," McCabe said. "Second is taking care of them in a safe way, and third is being sure that no other patient, staff member, family member has any exposure.”

McCabe says that means repurposing an old clinical space that hasn’t been used in a while, with enough room for four beds that would isolate any potential Ebola patients.

"We’re going through refurbishing, so that we have a set of beds that are away from other parts of the hospital, isolated from other patients, and meet the requirements," McCabe said. "Some of the requirements are having a patient room with an anteroom, so the staff can, in a very isolated way, dress to go into the patients room and then come out with a buddy system, undress properly and be disinfected before they go back into the rest of the institution.”

Emergency staff and a cadre of ICU staff are being trained to be the health workers who would deal with patients. They’re being taught the latest Centers for Disease Control protocols on using protective gear.

“One piece is how do you put those on safely, so you know everything is covered and secure," McCabe said. "And even more importantly, after you’ve taken care of a patient, how do you take them off in a way that you don’t contaminate yourself or others? And that’s really the training that's going on now here for the emergency department staff and some of our ICU staff, is being sure that they run through those kinds of procedures again and again.”

While Upstate is one of eight hospitals statewide prepared to take on anyone who may have the deadly disease, McCabe emphasizes the probability of that happening in Syracuse is very low.

"Our goal is really to be prepared and be safe, but not make the hysteria any worse than it needs to be, or already is," McCabe said.