In response to several national disease outbreaks, the Alabama Department of Public Health (ADPH) www.alabamapublichealth.gov has launched an infectious disease network. The network will help identify and appropriately route patients for treatment if an outbreak occurs.
“Handling diseases that are new to our health system is a complex process that involves many key players.” Said CMO Dr. Mary McIntyre, ADPH. “One of the more critical components is to quickly identify and test individuals who may be carriers of the disease.”
She said, “The state plan now in effect was developed based on guidance from CDC and each hospital is working within the guidelines to develop comprehensive plans to effectively diagnose individuals, while at the same time protecting staff and other patients.”
ASPH is working and partnering with three hospitals to serve as assessment centers to focus on the resources needed to deal with this complex process. The three hospitals are Huntsville, Hospital www.huntsvillehospital.org, University of Alabama at Birmingham Hospital www.uabmedicine.org, and the University of South Alabama Medical Center in Mobile www.usahealthsystem.com.
As Dr, McIntyre explains, “If a suspected highly infectious disease occurs, patients meeting certain criteria who are identified by other hospitals or healthcare providers would be transferred to one of the three assessment centers for further testing. If the infection is confirmed, the patient would then be transferred to a regional treatment center. That center would be Emory Medical Center since that center is the closest to Alabama.”
She further adds, “In order to protect the staff from diseases, the hospitals would be required to provide isolation rooms with negative airflow and special protective equipment available to the staff. They must also limit the number of staff who are coming in contact with potentially infected patients.”