University conducts Ebola protocol drill at Health Center
The Ebola epidemic has been a worrisome and widely discussed topic over the past several months. Although there have been no confirmed cases in Boston, hospitals around the area are taking preventative steps to avoid an outbreak. On Tuesday, Jan. 6, the University also took precautionary steps by conducting an Ebola-related drill on campus.
The drill took place at the Golding Health Center at 3 p.m. and simulated the transportation and medical procedure required for a person on campus who is suspected to have Ebola or Ebola-related symptoms.
The Health Center staff, BEMCo, Brandeis Police, Waltham Fire Department, Waltham Police and Waltham Emergency Medical Services all participated. All parties wore gloves, face shields and other protective equipment, as would be done when responding to an actual case of Ebola.
In an email to the Justice, Director of Public Safety Ed Callahan wrote that the idea of the drill was raised at a meeting hosted by the Waltham Fire Department and 911 Center.
Health Department and Public Safety members from both Brandeis and Bentley University were present at the meeting, as well as EMS personnel from Cataldo ambulance. Callahan wrote that the City of Waltham “suggested that both universities host a drill that would involve fire, police, and EMS services.”
The multi-organizational drill was to confirm that the community would be prepared to handle such an emergency if it occurred. The drill “involved all the proactive EMS measures that would exist during an actual response to an infectious disease call by first responders,” Callahan wrote.
Director of Brandeis Emergency Medical Corps Jeffrey Katz ’15 wrote in an email to the Justice that although BEMCo was supposed to be present at the Ebola drill, they were not involved because all members were away for the break.
However, BEMCo members were present at meetings before winter break to help develop the University’s Ebola protocol. Katz wrote that if such a situation were to occur, BEMCo’s role would be “to manage the scene and to calm the patient from a distance” but not touch or come near the patient because BEMCo is not equipped with proper isolation gear.
The drill was not mandatory, according to Callahan, but considered important to conduct in order to test the University’s “readiness” and to further strengthen the University’s “relationship with the Waltham fire, police and EMS responders.”
Katz also wrote that the drills are a necessary precaution “due to the diversity of our student population who come from many countries from around the world including those in West Africa,” which is the primary site of the outbreak.
According to the Massachusetts General Hospital website, there have been several similar Ebola drills conducted in the Boston area since October, though the website also noted that said drills were mostly at hospitals and health centers.
The hospitals and health centers have all gone through similar procedures and conducted full-scale training exercises to deal with the transportation of potentially infected patients.
On their website, Mass General issued a memo stating that the increased traveling around the holiday season, along with the confusion of a malaria patient thought to have Ebola-like symptoms, should constitute increased caution.
The Brandeis Health Center did not respond to a request for comment by press time.