Denver Health Medical Center can set up a biocontainment unit in minutes.

Health & Human Services (HHS) has selected nine state health departments and associated partner hospitals to become special regional treatment centers to care for patients with Ebola or other highly infectious diseases.

Each of the health care facilities chosen had submitted proposals for review by a panel of experts. A Rapid Ebola Preparedness team led by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) also assessed the facilities.

The partner hospitals are:

• Massachusetts General Hospital (MGH), Boston.

• New York City Health and Hospitals Corp./Bellevue Hospital Center, New York City

• Johns Hopkins Hospital, Baltimore, Md.

• Emory University Hospital and Children’s Healthcare of Atlanta/Egleston Hospital, Atlanta

• University of Minnesota Medical Center, Minneapolis

• University of Texas Medical Branch, Galveston

• University of Nebraska Medical Center/Nebraska Medicine, Omaha

• Denver Health Medical Center

• Providence Sacred Heart Medical Center and Children’s Hospital, Spokane, Wash.

To serve as regional Ebola treatment centers, the hospitals are required to accept patients within eight hours of being notified, have the capacity to treat at least two Ebola patients at the same time, be able to treat pediatric patients with Ebola or other infectious diseases or partner with a neighboring facility to do so, and be able to safely handle Ebola-contaminated or other highly contaminated infectious waste.

HHS’ Office of the Assistant Secretary for Preparedness and Response (ASPR) will award each partner hospital approximately $3.25 million to enhance each center’s treatment capabilities.

As with other hospitals chosen as treatment centers, MGH last year started identifying space and making design modifications to areas — in their case, in the emergency department and medical intensive care unit (MICU) — most suitable for treating patients with Ebola and other highly infectious diseases.

“We prefabricated a temporary wall that could be deployed within 45 minutes. The wall serves as a visual and physical barrier to completely separate three isolation area rooms where we anticipate being able to care for up to two adult or pediatric Ebola patients. With this separation and additional enhancements of the isolation care area, the routine functioning of the MICU can continue without distraction or obstruction,” says Erica S. Shenoy, M.D., medical director for the regional treatment center and assistant chief of the division of infectious diseases at MGH.

Similar to that of other regional centers, a space was created where clinical staff can get help to put on or remove personal protective equipment (PPE). “The correct donning, and especially doffing, of PPE is a cornerstone of safety in the presence of pathogens such as Ebola,” Shenoy says.

Deb Cathcart, R.N., regional vice president for patient care services, University of Minnesota Health, whose affiliate treatment center partner is University of Minnesota Medical Center, last fall opened a containment unit that was designated as a state treatment center for Ebola patients. The unit is located in a remote space in the hospital and includes one room with negative airflow that was converted into an anteroom where staff can change into and out of PPE. An existing patient care room was converted into a satellite lab to eliminate transporting specimens throughout the main part of the hospital and decrease turnaround times, she says.

Jenny Schmitz, director of safety and the environment of care, Denver Health Medical Center, says space used for regular patient care can be converted into a biocontainment unit in a few minutes by putting up construction-grade plastic sheeting and dividing the space as needed. The plan is to build a permanent solution as funding becomes available.

In related news, the HHS’ Office of the ASPR and CDC will provide $12 million over the next five years to Emory University, University of Nebraska Medical Center/Nebraska Medicine and Bellevue Hospital Center to co-lead the recently launched National Ebola Training and Education Center.