UC med centers to take lead in any confirmed Ebola cases

Though there are no confirmed or suspect cases of Ebola Virus Disease (Ebola) in California, today the University of California Office of the President informed the California Department of Public Health (CDPH) that all five UC medical centers are positioned to provide in-patient care for Californians who have confirmed cases of Ebola if necessary.

CDPH continues working with health officials to prepare for potential cases of Ebola in California and the Division of Occupational Safety and Health (Cal/OSHA) is providing updated, specific guidelines on the protective equipment, training and other measures that must be in place to protect workers’ health and safety.

“All of the UC medical centers specialize in complex care and operate as or staff level one trauma centers. We appreciate their leadership role in willingness to treat Ebola patients,” said Dr. Ron Chapman, director of CDPH and state health officer. “The administration will support these hospitals in meeting this public health need in California. At the same time all hospitals and medical providers need to redouble preparedness efforts to ensure that they can effectively assess Ebola risk in their patients, while ensuring workplace safety.”

“As part of a public university, UC’s medical centers are far along in their preparation activities and are willing to care for confirmed Ebola patients,” said Dr. John Stobo, UC senior vice president for health sciences and services. “Stepping up to a public health crisis is what these medical centers do, and in the past weeks we have been actively readying ourselves for any health eventuality related to Ebola. We are committed to addressing the health needs of this population and the public at large, as well as ensuring the safety of our health care workers. It is our intent that only health care workers who are members of a core designated group or who volunteer to do so will provide care to confirmed Ebola patients.”

The UC medical centers identified today include the Davis, Irvine, Los Angeles, San Diego and San Francisco facilities. These hospitals will closely coordinate with CDPH and local health officers as they consider taking on such patients. Today’s announcement means that the UC medical centers are positioned to accept patients in California with confirmed cases of Ebola. They are not identified as treatment centers for patients being transported into the United States by the U.S. State Department. Four hospitals in other parts of the country are already established as treatment centers for these repatriated U.S. citizens.

CDPH has been reviewing Ebola preparedness, screening and treatment guidance from the national Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) and will ensure that the UC medical centers have the most up-to-date information on how to treat and care for Ebola patients, should confirmed Ebola cases appear in California.

The UC medical centers, like all health care facilities in California, are required to comply with standards set by Cal/OSHA to ensure that appropriate protective equipment, training and other measures are in place to protect worker health and safety while caring for Ebola patients. Cal/OSHA is developing updated guidance and compliance requirements specifically identifying what measures are adequate — and inadequate — to comply with California’s workplace health and safety legal requirement, based on CDC’s recent strengthening of clinical guidance for Ebola treatment. Cal/OSHA will also provide on-site consultation for these medical centers to help them meet the established occupational health and safety standards.

CDPH has also committed to helping the five identified medical centers obtain the necessary personal protective equipment (PPE), should the hospitals have sourcing challenges. CDC recently updated the PPE guidance, aligning them with California’s stronger standards. State officials will also work with these medical centers to ensure that medical waste generated from the treatment of an Ebola patient will be properly handled and disposed.

All hospitals throughout the state are expected to screen, identify and isolate any patients with Ebola risk. Screening questions include:  “Has the patient recently been in one of the three countries with Ebola outbreaks: Liberia, Sierra Leone and Guinea?”; and “Has the patient been in direct contact with someone known to have Ebola or someone exposed to Ebola?” If further testing of the patient is recommended, the hospital will contact the local health department, which will provide a more detailed epidemiological assessment. If necessary, the local health officer will then coordinate with CDPH and CDC to pursue testing at CDC-approved laboratories. During that time, the patient should remain in isolation until the test results are available. If test results are positive, CDPH will work with the hospital, local health officers and the CDC to transfer the patient as needed.

CDPH remains in contact with hospitals and health care professionals throughout the state to monitor and strengthen medical preparedness and Cal/OSHA will be working with hospitals to provide compliance assistance on required workplace safety standards. Other hospitals will likely be identified as additional priority hospitals for Ebola treatment. 

Since the Ebola outbreak began in Guinea, Liberia and Sierra Leone, CDPH has worked with state, federal and local health officials to prepare for potential cases of Ebola in California. In August, CDPH launched an informational website compiling information about the outbreak and preparing California health care providers with guidance and protocols from the CDC. CDPH has developed an interim case report form for reporting suspected cases of Ebola to CDPH and has distributed CDC guidance on specimen collection, transport, testing and submission for patients suspected of having Ebola. Last week, CDPH posted interim guidelines for Ebola medical waste management and recommended that all health care facility environmental services personnel and infection control staff work together to develop facility-specific protocols for safe handling of Ebola related medical waste. CDPH has provided these and other documents to health care providers and partners via the California Health Alert Network (CAHAN).

In September, CDPH convened more than 1,100 health care and public health workers to urge them to assess their Ebola readiness and conduct drills in their facilities. Last week, CDPH officials held a teleconference with health care providers to discuss the latest news and guidance about handling suspected Ebola cases. CDPH is providing weekly updates to local health officials, first responders and health care providers as the Ebola outbreak continues in West Africa. CDPH launched a telephone hotline call center to respond to public inquiries related to Ebola. Earlier this week, Governor Brown joined officials from the California Health and Human Services Agency (CHHS), CDPH, Department of Industrial Relations (DIR) and Cal/OSHA to meet with California hospital leaders, nurses, emergency responders, local health directors and medical providers.

CDPH is also available to provide consultation about suspect Ebola cases to local health departments and health care providers 24 hours a day, seven days a week. CDPH joins with a team of state departments and agencies including CHHS, the Governor’s Office of Emergency Services (CalOES), Emergency Medical Services Authority (EMSA) and DIR, to address all aspects of preparedness for a potential Ebola case in California.

For more information about how the state is preparing for potential cases of Ebola, please read CDPH's Ebola Virus Disease FAQs and visit the CDPH Ebola Virus Information Page and the Cal/OSHA Ebola Virus Information site.

Media contact at CDPH: Anita Gore, deputy director of public affairs (916) 440-7259