People in Pharma Blog

Preventive Action in Practice: Ebola

A short while after I put up the blog entry relating to the American nurse who contracted the ebola virus in a Dallas hospital, it was announced that British Army medics were being deployed to Sierra Leone to set up a field hospital for healthcare workers who may have contracted ebola. Here, verbatim, is what a medical spokesperson for the British Army said in relation to their preparation ahead of this mission:

“We’ve undergone a nine day bespoke training package where we’ve been introduced to the specific protective equipment that we will be using in Sierra Leone. We’ve invested a lot of time in the training we have undertaken to make sure that people know the drills – really rehearse them very often, so the become second nature. We also have specific people deploying with us who will actually be what we call ‘PPE monitors’ – so they will monitor individuals each time they put on their equipment and each time they take it off to make sure they don’t make any mistakes in their drills”

How about that for a comprehensive preventive action? While I don’t know what preparation took place at the Dallas hospital, I suspect that it was nothing like this. The question is: how much time and resource should be invested? Of course, it is all about risk management. I would be very surprised if the British Army medical team had not carried out a detailed risk assessment before devising the above approach.

While it is virtually impossible to completely avoid human error, careful procedural design, along with concomitant safeguards where appropriate (see ‘PPE monitors’ above), the probability of an incident occurring can certainly be reduced.