As Emory University Hospital receives Ebola patients in Atlanta, “We should be proud of Emory,” said Jane Jordan, deputy general counsel and chief council for health affairs at the university.
“Emory had the courage to be first,” she added during an evening seminar Oct. 14 at the Emory University School of Law. “We can fear, or we can care.”
Nevertheless, she admitted that questions abound under the circumstances including “How do we treat these people; how do we treat our staff?”
On Wednesday, the second Texas hospital worker to test positive for Ebola was transferred to Emory Hospital where the first two U.S. Ebola patients — both health missionary workers stationed in Liberia — were treated and released in August.
Other facilities in the country would be less prepared to treat Ebola cases than Emory, Ms. Jordan added, saying that there is a need for more consistent procedures and protocols.
She was joined for the panel discussion by Polly Price, a law professor at the school, and Ed Shoemaker, also an attorney, who works at the university’s police department.
Ms. Jordan said that Emory was better prepared for such a crisis than other hospitals in the country because about a decade ago a special unit for serious communicable diseases was set up at Emory in conjunction with the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention to treat CDC workers.
The wide ranging presentations underscored the numerous issues pertaining to U.S. laws, but also pointed to the lack of legal preciseness or consistency throughout the country to the threat of a potential epidemic such as Ebola.
Among the issues discussed were: issues involving quarantine procedures; line of authority for dealing with such a medical crisis; the legality of control measures; confidentiality; immigration issues; the duty to treat; control of the “fear factor” and providing a level of transparency to the media and the public at large.
Ms. Jordan pointed to the difficulties of maintaining a high level of information due to misreporting such as when it was reported that DeKalb County had threatened to cut off the sewer line to Emory if the county were not satisfied with its handling of waste from Ebola patients.
Mr. Shoemaker also pointed to difficulties in dealing with the public. He said several hundred people called 911 to express their displeasure with the university’s efforts: “We had a couple of folks who offered to blow the place up for us,” forcing bomb-sniffing dogs to be led through the facility before the patients arrived.