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Sacred Heart prepares for potential infectious disease threats

SPOKANE, Wash. - Spokane's Sacred Heart Hospital trained Wednesday for potential infectious disease threats in a full-scale emergency simulation.

A new ward at the hospital is ready to handle patients with highly infectious diseases. It's just one of ten hospitals in the country chosen as a regional treatment center.

The drill scenario actually started in Alaska where our mock patient was suspected of being exposed to Ebola.

The second the airplane landed at Spokane International Airport, it was go time for the team of nurses and doctors treating the patient.

Wearing protective suits, they got her into an ambulance and raced through Spokane to Sacred Heart. Once there, they pulled the woman, still in an isolation stretcher, up to the new Special Pathogens Unit.

The 14,000 square foot unit contains 12 patient rooms, including two critical care rooms. When used for the most acute care circumstances, the unit can care for up to ten patients.

The volunteer team of several physicians, 35 registered nurses and respiratory therapists took the Ebola patient's vitals and a blood sample. The room next door is set up as a doffing room where staff can safely remove their protective gear supervised by another trained medical worker. There's also a lab in the unit so that blood from sick patients doesn't leave the floor. The rooms also have video chat capabilities to limit contact.

“This is just the best way to learn and I know we found things we did well and we have things we know we can improve on,” Christa Arguinchona, assistant nurse manager for Intensive Care Unit and Special Pathogens Unit lead, said.

“Doing this drill, putting procedures in place, what we're trying to do is instill a comfort level in the community,” said Bruce Millsap, Spokane International Airport Fire Chief.

This drill was a full-scale emergency simulation. The City of Spokane, Greater Spokane Emergency Management, Sacred Heart, Life Flight Network, Spokane County Sheriff's Office, Spokane Fire Department, Spokane Police Department, Spokane International Airport and its fire and police departments, Spokane Regional Health District, Washington State Region 9 Healthcare Coalition, Washington State Department of Health, American Medical Response, and US Department of Health and Human services all participated as part of a joint commitment to ongoing safety and training for hospital and public health response officials.

Congress allocated funding to hospitals following the 2014 Ebola outbreak, which killed thousands of people across west Africa. Some patients, mostly health care workers, were treated at hospitals in the U.S. Sacred Heart received $2.1 million over five years to build the unit, train staff, and run ongoing drills.

In the event of an outbreak, the hospital could now treats patients from Washington, Idaho, Oregon, and Alaska.

“We use practice makes permanent because if we practice incorrectly, when we have an actual patient we will perform it incorrectly,” said Nick Cagliuso, adviser for National Ebola Training and Education Center.

The team will evaluate how the training went and pin point where they can improve. They'll continue to do monthly training and will practice with different pathogens like SARS and MERSA.

When it's not being used for infectious disease, the Special Pathogens Unit is used as overflow space for patients.


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