Md. responders, community hold ebola drill

The Frederick Memorial Hospital is required to hold an annual drill as part of the grant funding to help with being an assessment hospital

By Heather Mongilio
The Frederick News-Post

FREDERICK, Md. — Sarah Campbell woke up Wednesday morning and drove to the now-closed Frederick Memorial Hospital urgent care on Oak Street.

Feeling worse, she called 911.

Approximately three hours later, she walked out of the hospital, perfectly healthy.

Campbell, a personnel analyst with the Frederick County Division of Fire and Rescue Services, wasn’t actually sick. She was just playing a patient suspected of having an infectious pathogen, such as Ebola. The hospital was running its annual drill, which involved fire and rescue personnel, the health department and other community partners, on handling emergencies.

While the commotion at the hospital was part of the drill, it is routed in a real-life scenario, said Rebecca Marrone, a nurse at FMH and the manager of infection prevention and control. In 2014, a patient exposed to Ebola came through Frederick Municipal Airport on their way to the National Institutes of Health in Bethesda, she said.


Thank you to all of our community partners and local and state observers who took part in our drill today! We are all working together to make sure we are prepared to care for all patients in our community.

Posted by Frederick Memorial Hospital on Wednesday, October 17, 2018

The 2014 outbreak heightened awareness, and the hospital staff questioned how it could better protect the community, said Michelle Miller, a medical surgical clinical nurse specialist and special pathogen assessment hospital program coordinator.

FMH is now one of the five assessment hospitals in the state, which means it can keep a patient for up to 96 hours while ruling out the pathogen causing a person to feel ill, Miller said. If it turns out to be Ebola, a patient would then be transferred to a different hospital, such as Johns Hopkins University or the University of Maryland Medical Center.

As part of the grant funding to help with being an assessment hospital, FMH is required to complete a drill annually, she said.

“But the bottom line is that you can’t be prepared to do this on any given day unless you practice it,” Miller said.

The drill lasted about five hours, and hospital officials felt it went well, hospital spokeswoman Melissa Lambdin said in an email.

“The exercise went smoothly and everyone was pleased with how well communication flowed and that processes were followed appropriately. Many participants and observers commented on how the entire team is well prepared to serve the community,” hospital Senior Vice President Cheryl Cioffi said in an email.

In the drill, it was fire and rescue that had the first contact with Campbell. Two weeks ago, Campbell was given information about how to answer questions that emergency medical personnel would ask. She said it was her answers to the questions, like that she had recently been in the Democratic Republic of Congo and running a fever, that caused the EMS unit to call for a hazardous materials unit, thus triggering the drill.

To keep the drill authentic, not everyone knew about the conditions of the drill — just that the exercise was happening. That meant the emergency medical services personnel didn’t know what to expect when they arrived.

Campbell was placed in an isolation pod and taken by ambulance to the hospital’s loading dock. The hospital uses the loading dock instead of the emergency department entrance to limit the risk of contamination.

Campbell said the pod was claustrophobic. It was the first time she had been in an ambulance or called 911, she said, but the paramedics and emergency medical technicians were good at keeping her informed.

“They were really good about talking and telling me what they were going to do each time,” she said.

Battalion Chief Tom Coe said he thought the drill went well, adding that a plan has been in place for responding to calls involving infectious pathogens since 2014.

Part of the drill allowed the different players involved to get into personal protective equipment. There were different suits for different people to wear. Others would call out steps on putting on and taking off the equipment, based on a checklist.

And a drill like Wednesday’s includes every aspect of the hospital, down to the trash. Don Moody, general manager of support services at FMH, said there were plans for how to dispose of used gowns, gloves and other medical waste in such a way to prevent contamination.

“There’s no room for mistakes at all. This one is — you’ve got to be on point and you’ve got to be right,” Moody said. “And a mistake in Ebola means somebody died.”

Copyright 2018 The Frederick News-Post

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