Abu Dhabi hospital says it is prepared for Ebola

Al Rahba Hospital has improved its preparedness for handling people who potential have Ebola, the National Women's Health Conference in Abu Dhabi heard on Friday.

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ABU DHABI // Al Rahba Hospital has improved its readiness for handling suspected Ebola cases, a conference heard yesterday.

Although there has yet to be recorded cases of Ebola in the UAE, the hospital has on three occasions received patients under investigation for the deadly disease.

That phrase is used to describe people who have symptoms and risk factors, according to Dr Nellie Boma, the hospital’s chief medical officer.

All three patients, who were admitted separately in September and last month, tested negative for Ebola.

“The first time, we were ill-equipped in not having the appropriate equipment in place and also in the training and communication,” Dr Boma told the National Women’s Health Conference.

In the case of the first patient, the hospital learnt that “we had to move with some urgency and to train, to make sure we had the appropriate equipment”, she said.

Medical staff underwent training and the hospital acquired the necessary protective gear prior to handling the second case, before inviting The Johns Hopkins Hospital in the United States to audit its preparedness.

The US institution recommended the creation of a clinical pathway, a tool to shape Ebola healthcare procedures.

This was very reassuring to the staff of the Al Rahba Hospital, said Dr Boma.

“Once we had that clinical pathway in place, we were fine with what we had to work for,” she said.

Al Rahba also conducted intensive training for 27 staff members, including doctors, nurses and maids in handling potential Ebola patients, particularly with donning and removing protective gear.

Many healthcare workers who had contracted Ebola became infected while removing their protective gear, said Dr Boma.

Ebola’s mode of transmission and affected West African countries’ initiatives to contain the disease made it unlikely that it would spread to the UAE, she said, emphasising that Ebola was not an airborne disease.

“I don’t think there is a risk,” said Dr Boma. “One case will be tracked and traced and monitored.”

Another crucial aspect of managing the response to Ebola is to ensure that the hospital leadership shows commitment and readiness to take the risk of exposure alongside staff members caring for potential patients, according to Dr Boma.

Dr Linda Clark, chief executive of Corniche Hospital, who also spoke at the conference, said that showed good leadership in general and would foster public trust in health care.

Some healthcare workers treating Ebola patients in the US felt that their superiors did not support them, as they were risking their lives, said Dr Clark.

She also discussed the importance of building trust and characteristics of good leadership, especially for women.

A term she first heard in the UAE – “qalb abyad”, meaning a clean heart – had been useful to her, said Dr Clark.

“It really says to me how important trust is, especially when you’re in a multicultural environment,” she said.

Leaders must also create an environment in which critics feel listened to and should not assume that their criticisms are far from the truth.

They should build trust with stakeholders, and be honest and not cover up when things go wrong or assign blame, said Dr Clark.

Al Rahba Hospital organised the conference, that was held yesterday and continues today, at Intercontinental Hotel in the capital.

Other speakers included Dr Samra Abouchacra of Tawam Hospital, who gave a presentation about the misconception that women are less likely than men to develop chronic kidney disease.

lcarroll@thenational.ae