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University of Chicago to be part of city's Ebola resource network

October 20, 2014

The University of Chicago Medical Center will be one of four hospitals in the city to treat patients with Ebola as part of a network created under the direction of the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention and the Chicago Department of Public Health. The others are Rush University Medical Center, Northwestern Memorial Hospital and Lurie Children's Hospital of Chicago.

The CDC has been working with state and local public health departments and hospitals across the country to develop networks with the experience in infection control to care for patients with or suspected of having Ebola and to limit the spread of the virus. In addition to their expertise, the four medical centers were identified based on their ability to care for complex illnesses, advanced critical-care capabilities and resources, and Ebola-preparedness efforts to date.

Currently, there are no known cases of Ebola virus disease (EVD) in the city or state. If a patient is identified at O'Hare International Airport, at another local health care provider or by first responders as having symptoms concerning for Ebola, the patient would be transferred to one of the four network hospitals. Federal and city health officials will select the resource hospital based on several criteria, including proximity and a rotation protocol to ensure even distribution of patients.

Ebola-related planning at the University of Chicago Medical Center has been under way since August. That includes targeted education and training sessions in the adult and pediatric emergency departments and other areas that are most likely to see a potentially infected patient. Its comprehensive plan has been fine-tuned based on guidance from the CDC and the models created by Emory University Hospital and University of Nebraska Medical Center, the two facilities that received infected health care workers and successfully treated them.

Key University of Chicago Medical Center physicians and nurses have received extensive training to provide direct care to a patient with suspected or confirmed EVD, and additional provider training is ongoing. The training, which includes the donning and removal of personal protective equipment, will be continually reinforced with refresher sessions and step-by-step video instructions

In addition, the hospital's Ebola Incident Command Team continues to meet daily to review the global and local situation and assess the readiness of the medical center.

"We have a very expert and experienced team that is working hard to develop detailed plans for the University of Chicago Medical Center," said Kenneth S. Polonsky, executive vice president for medical affairs at the University of Chicago. "They have been in regular, often daily, contact with the CDC and colleagues at Rush, Northwestern and Lurie as well as those who have treated patients with EVD at Emory University and the University of Nebraska."

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