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Providence ready to go as Oregon ebola treatment center

Providence Health hospital system officials says the health network, including its Medford hospital, is prepared to treat Ebola patients using measures such as enhanced personal protective equipment and the ability to establish pressurized isolation rooms for patients showing symptoms.

On Monday, Oregon health officials designated the system's eight hospitals in the state, which includes Providence Medford, as one of six hospital systems that would serve as regional referral treatment centers for anyone who has the disease. Oregon Health & Science University, Legacy Health, Peace Health, Kaiser Permanente Northwest and Samaritan Health are also on the list.

Providence officials said they are prepared to follow the latest federal infection prevention recommendations. That includes isolating symptomatic patients from other patients, the use of appropriate protective equipment among staff, and environmental infection control measures, according to Providence public affairs regional director Gary Walker.

"A dedicated regional Ebola team is meeting daily to review and manage our preparedness efforts, making sure were are aligned with the latest protocols and procedures," a statement from Walker said. "Additional meetings are taking place in each of our eight hospitals."

The measures include enhanced personal protective equipment being in place at Providence's eight hospitals. Additionally, the network has the ability to negatively pressurize rooms so air can flow into the space but cannot flow out. More than 400 Providence employees have been trained in Ebola isolation protocols, and additional training will be ongoing during the week. Education on the disease will be given to anyone involved in direct patient care.

"Meanwhile, all of our hospitals and all our front line healthcare workers across the state are fine-tuning their response plans, which focus on the identification and isolation of people who are suspected of having Ebola, and then making the appropriate arrangements to safely transfer these individuals to one of our referral centers," Gov. John Kitzhaber said at a Monday press conference.

Providence also plans to increase the use and practice of screening measures such as identifying patient travel histories, diagnosing physical symptoms and an increased use of protective equipment.

"To ensure consistent education and training, we will be practicing these procedures," a Providence statement reads.

Additionally, the hospital system is in the process of establishing a core team of health care workers who will provide care as needed. Staff members identified as Ebola treatment providers will meet daily to make sure they are following up-to-date protocols and procedures, Walker said.

Jim Shames, medical director for Jackson County Health & Human Services, says the designation does not downgrade the importance of other healthcare treatment networks.

"It's really quite a big deal to manage an Ebola patient correctly," Shames said. "It doesn't, in a sense, relieve anybody of the responsibility."

Shames said he is still studying up on the state guidelines, but that the protocol basics make good sense.

"The guidance we've been getting has been very helpful, and it's been evolving, and it's gotten better and better," he said.

Reach reporter Ryan Pfeil at 541-776-4468 or rpfeil@mailtribune.com. Follow him at www.twitter.com/ryanpfeil.