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Originally published November 2 2014

AP investigation: US hospitals nowhere near ready for Ebola

by Jonathan Benson, staff writer

(NaturalNews) Should pockets of Ebola suddenly begin to break out across the U.S., hospitals and acute care facilities would be quickly overwhelmed and unable to handle the massive influx of patients and those who believe that they might have the disease. An Associated Press (AP) investigation found that, generally speaking, the American healthcare infrastructure would likely collapse in the event of even a moderate Ebola outbreak, stressing the need for better preparedness.

Reporters from the AP conducted surveys to assess the sentiment among healthcare workers about how prepared their hospitals are for Ebola, and how they personally feel about the disease. Most emphasized worry about how an outbreak would be handled, especially due to the fact that many hospitals and emergency rooms are already struggling with capacity issues in day-to-day care situations, or they lack of proper training about how to handle deadly viruses.

As expected, many medical workers also say they would likely avoid treating Ebola patients for their own safety. Several nurses and a handful of American doctors working abroad have reportedly contracted Ebola within the past several months, despite wearing the recommended safety equipment. This is a major concern in the medical field, as frontline caretakers consider their overall risk of becoming infected.

"Even though there have been only a couple cases [of Ebola], many health systems are already overwhelmed," said Dr. Kenrad Nelson, a professor at Johns Hopkins Bloomberg School of Public Health and former president of the American Epidemiological Society, to the AP.

75% of emergency doctors, 80% of infection specialists say facilities unprepared to deal with Ebola

The biggest concern is smaller hospitals, which are generally less financially and logistically able to deal with an unexpected disease outbreak. But all across the board, care facilities big and small are lacking in the extra resources that they would need to handle a patient surge, something that most medical personnel recognize as a problem.

Among those surveyed, nearly three-quarters of all emergency doctors and four out of five infection specialists at large hospitals say their facilities are not equipped at this time to handle Ebola patients. And nearly all medical staff at large hospitals believe that neither they nor other workers at their facilities are properly trained in how to safely treat Ebola patients.

Emergency nurses are also frightened about how Ebola patients would affect their departments. With an average wait time of nearly 4.5 hours, the typical U.S. emergency room would be almost immediately crushed by an influx of Ebola patients, and those who think that they might have Ebola.

Half of critical care, emergency staff say they wouldn't get anywhere near Ebola patients

Many hospital staff members, which are already in short supply in some areas, also expressed reluctance toward treating Ebola patients. About half of those who currently work in crisis care say they wouldn't get anywhere near Ebola patients, which during a major outbreak would create an even greater shortage of human resources.

Among those polled, only 1 percent of medical personnel at acute care hospitals say they have the capacity to treat more than 10 Ebola patients at one time. Academic medical centers don't fare much better, with only about 25 percent of those capable of treating more than 10 Ebola patients before reaching capacity.

"It would have to be only a mediocre outbreak," added Lawrence Gostin, a global health law expert and professor at Georgetown University, to the AP about what it would take to collapse the healthcare system. "The hospitals will be flooded with the 'worried-well.' People with influenza or other infections that are not Ebola could jam up the public health system."

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