Carle Foundation Hospital may become next Ebola treatment center

By Fatima Farha

Carle Foundation Hospital is in the process of applying to be a possible top-tier Ebola treatment center in Illinois.

Carle’s Chief Medical Quality Officer, Dr. Robert Healy, said Carle treats patients for many kinds of diseases, and Ebola is just another one of those diseases that they have to consider treating.

“I think that we just felt an obligation to our patients,” Healy said.

There are currently four Ebola treatment centers in Illinois, which include Northwestern Memorial Hospital, Rush University Medical Center, University of Chicago Medical Center and Ann & Robert H. Lurie Children’s Hospital of Chicago, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention’s website.

Healy said all hospitals are asked to choose one of three possible centers they would prefer to be when it comes to providing care for Ebola patients. The minimum is front-line, which Healy said would identify and isolate a potential Ebola patient.

The potential Ebola patient would be sent to the Ebola assessment center, which is where the patient would be confirmed to have Ebola, and then sent to the Ebola treatment center, where they would be treated for the duration of their illness.

Healy said Ebola treatment centers are at the top tier, and that is what Carle plans to become because it has the staff and facilities for it.

“We have excellent physicians and we have excellent nurses,” Healy said. “We have the proper facility with the ability to have an isolation room. It’s a part of our mission to treat people throughout the areas, and we feel that we can do this.”

To be deemed appropriate as an Ebola treatment center, Carle must fulfill the guidelines set by the CDC.

According to the agency, some of the guidelines require the center to have a proper isolated facility for Ebola patients and properly trained staff, along with appropriate treatment equipment.

Healy said Carle is currently working on the guidelines checklist, and after the Illinois Department of Health reviews it, there will be a scheduled site visit from the CDC, which will decide whether Carle is fit to be an Ebola treatment center.

If an Ebola patient was to ever be admitted to Carle, Healy said he understands people in the community would be fearful.

“I think mostly that people would be proud that this institution in their community is treating such patients, but there is also a fear,” Healy said.

To assuage that fear, Healy said he wants to assure people that Ebola is very difficult to catch in its early stages because it would require direct contact of body fluids with the patient.

Carle would also be using the personal protective gear recommended by the CDC to ensure the safety of the staff treating an Ebola patient.

“It’s actually hard to catch Ebola in the early stages,” Healy said. “And the patient would be in an isolated area, so there would be no fear of someone being in the area where the Ebola patient is being isolated.”

As of Tuesday, the Illinois Department of Health has confirmed there have been no Ebola patients in Illinois, but 13 travelers without symptoms are being monitored for signs of the disease.

Fatima can be reached at [email protected].