Due to largest Ebola epidemic in history in 2014, the County of San Luis Obispo Public Health Department continued its preparations for a possible Ebola case in the county in 2015.
The Public Health Department received grant funding to support Ebola and other highly infectious disease planning efforts. The grants funded the following efforts:
- An updated the Communicable Disease Response Plan
- Training for Public Health nursing staff on infectious disease investigation procedures
- A new machine to ensure Public Health staff are properly fitted for Personal Protective Equipment that will be required during an infectious disease response
- Exercises with the Public Health lab and the local hospitals on the proper procedures for specimen collection, preparation, packaging and shipping
- Center for Domestic Preparedness (CDP) training courses for Public Health and health care provider staff.
The CDP is operated by the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) and has the only hospital facility in the nation dedicated solely to training healthcare professionals in disaster preparedness and response.
In June 2015, staff from the County of San Luis Obispo Health Agency and Sierra Vista Regional Medical Center completed the Healthcare Leadership course at CDP in Anniston, Alabama. During this training, staff participated in four exercise scenarios, ranging from multiple casualty disasters to Ebola, to test their ability to manage a public health emergency.
Participants had to make decisions in a dynamic environment to effectively allocate resources, distribute public information, and provide public health directives for healthcare providers and first responders.
The training provided staff with increasingly challenging and complex scenarios which greatly enhanced Health Agency staff’s knowledge base and ability to respond to real-world disasters, including Ebola, here in San Luis Obispo County.
Coordination and Partnerships
The County Public Health Department also coordinated with public health partners throughout the nation in 2015 to ensure that local responders and public health professionals have the latest information and training on a potential Ebola response. This included the Center for Disease Control and Prevention, California Department of Public Health as well as regional partners in Orange, Los Angeles, Ventura, and Santa Barbara counties.
Regional partners continue to work together to develop a regional transportation plan for patients that are suspected of having a highly infectious disease and require transportation to a regional acute care hospital.
Although the likelihood of having an Ebola patient in San Luis Obispo County is low, and is getting lower as more West African counties are being declared Ebola-free, the Public Health Department is taking the threat seriously by preparing and planning for the possibility.
The planning efforts have also lead to increased readiness and response capabilities for any highly infectious disease that may emerge. The Public Health Department has built on the strong relationships it has with healthcare providers in the community and continues to make the health of San Luis Obispo County a priority.