Huntsville Hospital trains to handle patients with highly infectious diseases

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HUNTSVILLE, Ala. –  Huntsville Hospital is one of three hospitals in the state making sure they are ready if they get a patient with a highly infectious disease, also known as an HID.

Huntsville Hospital Senior Vice President of Operations Tracy Doughty says the practice is important.

“We’re going to practice all of the things our team has been working on from communication, to identifying patients, making sure they are safe,” Doughty said.

The hospital says a true HID hasn’t come to the area yet. But they say as the city grows, the chance of an HID case becomes more likely.

“Huntsville being an international city now, employees travel, then it might happen here,” said Doughty.

The mock patient arrived in an ambulance, accompanied by HEMSI staff in full hazmat gear.

The patient’s symptoms were a simple headache and fever. The reason for concern in the scenario was the patient had recently been out of the country. Doughty says in this scenario they would ask the patient if they have traveled.

“And we kind of get the place they traveled and we can kind of work with the CDC to see if that’s an area of highly infectious disease,” she said.

Hospital staff assisting the patient went through a long list of steps to get properly suited up. The task is tedious but necessary to avoid contamination.

“It’s very important so that we make sure our patients are taken care of properly,” said Doughty. “We don’t spread infection and just as important we don’t expose our employees to any disease.”

Multiple agencies took part in the exercise, including HEMSI and the Alabama Department of Public Health. That way, everyone is prepared in case disaster strikes.

If a patient were to test positive for a highly infectious disease they would be transferred to Emory University Hospital in Atlanta for treatment.

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