Handling New Zealand’s 1st Ebola suspect- excellent test of smooth planning

There is no substitute for repeated, detailed practice.

Ruth Barratt’s Open Access Case Report this week in Healthcare Infection is testimony to thorough planning and training, with the “real run” showing improvements can still be made.
The Report is a clear expose of the importance of Infection Prevention and Control and the availability, use, suitability and shortfalls of Personal Protective Equipment (PPE).
Having returned from Sierra Leone, I can confirm Barratt’s “real-life” is “real-life”. Her emphasis on the necessity of preparedness through practice drills, reflects that required in Ebola Red Zones.
Other mirrorings they found were:
• Staff preferring certain PPE over others (WHO state gown+hood vs coverall is personal choice – there is no evidence one is safer over other, and staff may find gown safer through familiarity, and, in certain cultures, more gender-acceptable);
• Fogging of eye-protection (CDC now recommends face-shields over goggles and many Red Zone staff leave face-shield bottoms outside their hood). Some Ebola Red Zones rub toothpaste on inside of lenses as a defogger (an old SCUBA-diving technique);
• Swapping thick outer gloves for long-cuff surgical outer gloves aids dexterity – others agree;
• Locating in-country sources for preferred PPE;
• Some PPE items being too small for taller/larger staff;
• Gowns not lasting (UNICEF recently published recommended product-specifications for PPE).

The author stressed the importance of having a trained observer in addition to a “buddy”. In Ebola Red Zones such observers are called “hygienists” and their calm, talking-through of each PPE-removal step is considered a God-send by near-exhausted staff.

The patient (who proved Ebola negative) was an Ebola-trained nurse – and assisted the staff with some of her own care and gave feedback on their procedures!

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