DPH, Cal-OSHA Issue Ebola Guidelines for Calif. Hospitals
On Friday, the California Department of Public Health and the California Division of Occupational Safety and Health issued new requirements for hospitals to provide Ebola protections to staff, the Orange County Register reports.
The new guidelines come after tens of thousands of California nurses went on strike over a lack of Ebola protections (Bharath, Orange County Register, 11/15).
Background on Strike
Last week, 18,000 Kaiser Permanente nurses launched a two-day strike in part to protest a lack of adequate equipment and training standards for treating patients with Ebola.
The strike affected 21 hospitals and dozens of clinics in California, according to National Nurses United. Nurses at Sutter Tracy Community Hospital and Watsonville Community Hospital also went on strike, according to the union.
Bonnie Castillo, a leader at NNU and director of the group's disaster-response network, said "Ebola has shined a light on how fundamentally unprepared [hospitals] were in regards to investing in the resources."
Kaiser said its hospitals remained open during the two-day strike, but some elective procedures and routine appointments might have needed to be rescheduled. In addition, Kaiser hired more than 2,800 temporary nurses to work during the strike (California Healthline, 11/13).
Details of DPH, Cal-OSHA Guidelines
The new Ebola-related rules are the first to be issued in the U.S. and go beyond federal standards for Ebola preparedness, according to the Register (Orange County Register, 11/15). They are based on existing standards for infectious disease preparedness (Aguilera/Plevin, "KPCC News," KPCC, 11/14).
Under the new guidelines -- which go into effect immediately -- hospitals in the state are required to provide full-body protective suits that meet the American Society for Testing and Materials' standards. The equipment must be provided to all hospital staff who are providing care for suspected or confirmed Ebola cases, including those who clean contaminated areas and who help other workers remove contaminated protective gear.
The guidelines also require hospitals to provide:
- Air-purifying respirators with a hood for any staff member who cares for an Ebola patient; and
- Training for employees at risk of being exposed to the disease.
The rules also protect whistleblowers who report violations of the new guidelines.
Hospitals that do not comply with the new rules could face civil penalties, according to the Register.
NNU spokesperson Bonnie Castillo called the guidelines a "monumental accomplishment."
In a statement, NNU said the California Nurses Association will "closely monitor hospital compliance with the guidelines, and work closely with Cal-OSHA on enforcement" (Orange County Register, 11/15).
CNA said the rules could be a benchmark for the rest of the country ("KPCC News," KPCC, 11/14).
Calif. Army National Guard Unit To Join Ebola Fight
In related news, a California Army National Guard unit is preparing to go to West Africa to help in efforts to combat Ebola.
Depart of Defense Secretary Chuck Hagel has ordered the 223rd Military Intelligence Battalion and five other units across the U.S. for involuntary deployment.
In an announcement on Sunday, Army National Guard officials said none of the approximately 1,200 soldiers in the six units will directly provide medical care to Ebola patients (Perry, "L.A. Now," Los Angeles Times, 11/16).This is part of the California Healthline Daily Edition, a summary of health policy coverage from major news organizations. Sign up for an email subscription.