DENVER (CBS4) – State emergency planners spent Monday testing Colorado’s ability to respond during a health crisis. A mock emergency focused on patients suspected of having Ebola and the procedures to prevent an outbreak of the infectious disease.
The exercise involved hospitals, paramedics and some county health departments. It was a safe way to practice Colorado’s emergency response to make sure the very best practices are in place.
Greg Stasinos, a section chief with the Office of Emergency Preparedness and Response, was the incident manager overseeing the response to the mock emergency which involved a plane landing at Centennial Airport.
“It contains eight individuals who are ill,” said Stasinos to CBS4 Health Specialist Kathy Walsh. “We think it might be Ebola.”
In the exercise, the travelers were triaged on the tarmac. The situation became a potential health crisis. Communication and coordination were critical.
“We have a saying ‘we like to practice, like we play,'” explained Stasinos.
The staff in the operations center at the Colorado Department of Public Health and Environment (CDPHE) worked on transporting the patients without spreading the disease.
Two patients were sent to Denver Health’s biocontainment unit. The others went to units at UCHealth University of Colorado Hospital and Children’s Hospital Colorado. The drill was in a low stress environment to help planners be ready for a real emergency.
“So that we can identify any gaps in our communications, our coordination, in any resource needs,” said Stasinos.
Gov. Jared Polis went to Denver Health’s biocontainment unit and tweeted about making sure the unit is “… fully prepared for whatever comes our way.” He asked questions at the CDPHE operations center.
“Why would these patients come to Colorado?” Polis asked.
The answer was that Denver Health is the Regional Ebola and Special Pathogens Treatment Center for a six state region. The team at Denver Health is prepared to treat patients with Ebola, measles, severe acute respiratory syndrome (SARS), Middle East Respiratory Syndrome (MERS) or any other highly infectious disease.
CDPHE released this statement:
The funding for Ebola/ Special Pathogen preparedness comes from the US Department of Health and Human Services (HHS), Assistant Secretary for Preparedness and Response (ASPR). CDPHE is the recipient of the funding and the sub recipients are assessment hospitals, treatment centers and EMS transportation entities. These two 5-year grants total $5,600,000.