Ebola watch: One year later, many nurses say government left them ill-prepared

A year after the West African Ebola outbreak, as well as fears of a similar disaster hitting the United States, many nurses feel unprepared for future epidemics, echoing concerns nurses voiced at the time, the Huffington Post reports.

Since the outbreak began, the Department of Health and Human Services has designated several hospitals to accept and treat future Ebola patients. The Occupational Safety and Health Administration is also weighing new standards for infectious disease protocols after Dallas nurse Nina Pham sued the parent company of Texas Presbyterian Hospital Dallas when she contracted Ebola while treating the country's first diagnosed patient. 

Despite these safeguards, many healthcare workers told the publication that the vast majority of hospitals have not received funding or training from HHS for future outbreaks. "It just doesn't give me faith that the next time that something happens, or the next time that Ebola breaks out, that we're going to be preventative as opposed to responsive," Kim Branciforte, an emergency room nurse at the University of California, San Francisco's Benioff Children's Hospital Oakland, told the Post.

For example, Branciforte said, amid the recent spread of Middle East respiratory syndrome (MERS), which experts warn could become "a major public health concern of global dimensions," the only related training or information she received was a Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) notice warning about the illness that someone in the hospital pinned to a wall.

Moreover, critics of HHS' approach said its focus should be on basic training for all hospitals because sick people will go to the hospital closest to them, according to a separate Huffington Post report.

The CDC has issued guidelines for all hospitals but the organizations don't receive federal funds to implement them and the government can't enforce the best practices. Moreover, the complexity of the certification process to become an Ebola-designated center leaves many regions underserved, such as California, which is unrepresented in the Ebola hospital network despite being the nation's most populous state, the article said.

"There are scarier and scarier bugs that we need to be aware of," said Laura Reed, chief nurse executive for University of Minnesota Health, the designated Ebola hospital for the Midwest. "And it can't be because of a crisis; This needs to be something that we're prepared for."

To learn more:
- here's the first Huffington Post article
- read the second article