A New York congresswoman today met with hospital officials from Westchester and Rockland Counties to gauge preparedness for Ebola and other public health emergencies.
Congresswoman Nita Lowey, the ranking Democrat on the House Appropriations Committee, met with about a dozen medical officials from several hospitals throughout Westchester and Rockland counties at Westchester Medical Center. Lowey says she left the meeting confident area hospitals are prepared to handle potential Ebola patients.
“However, they emphasized again that all of this training, all of this preparedness costs money,” says Lowey. “And I intend to send the message to the CDC, the Department of Defense, the National Institutes of Health as a whole, to my colleagues on the other side of the aisle that we have to work together. Public health is a bipartisan challenge.”
Lowey has called for a House Appropriations Committee hearing on Ebola response.
“We want to hear about the capacity, the willingness of the Republicans to provide the resources that are necessary to respond to Ebola,” Lowey says. “When you don’t even bring a bill out of committee, when you cut money for the Centers for Disease Control by $755 million, this is problematic.”
“So I hope maybe the Republicans have learned a lesson and will take the committee that funds [U.S. Department of] Health and Human Services more seriously, respond to many of the conversations and recommendations from Sylvia Burwell, who is the secretary, and we can move ahead as quickly as we can providing the resources,” says Lowey.
The Washington Post recently published an article fact-checking claims that GOP budget cuts have harmed the nation’s ability to handle the Ebola outbreak. The article concludes both parties are to blame, noting that this year, the Obama Administration proposed reducing the budget for the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, but Congress boosted it.
Lowey has supported a more than $1.1 billion response to the Ebola outbreak and prevention, including funding for the CDC, U.S. Agency for International Development, and Department of Defense.
Here’s Westchester Medical Center Executive Medical Director Dr. Renee Garrick:
“The kind of resources that we all need are counted not in the thousands, but in the hundreds of thousands and indeed the millions of dollars.”
Nyack Hospital Chief Medical Officer Dr. Michael Rader explains his hospital’s cost concerning the emergency department treatment of a potential Ebola patient.
“We estimate the costs from anywhere from $250,000-$500,000 for hospitals just for isolation of the ED [emergency department] and until the initial diagnosis is made.”
Again, Westchester Medical’s Dr. Garrick:
“In our case, we are building an entire wing of the institution to be able to care for these kinds of patients, with special volunteer staff, each of whom need to be trained in how to take on and take off the equipment,” says Dr. Garrick. “And you can imagine the cost of all of that, with the training, the equipment, the preparation, the isolation and the high-end technology that’s required for the care of these patients.”
That wing is a reconfiguration of an existing wing. She says it is 95 percent complete and preparations so far have cost about $750,000. Dr. Garrick expects the wing to be completely ready in a few weeks.
Meanwhile, Lowey is not calling for a travel ban on flights into the U.S. from West African countries to prevent the spread of Ebola, but says she is keeping watch.
“This is one instance where I say you have to fight it over there to prevent it from coming here,” Lowey says. “And I’ll leave that decision to the professionals who are evaluating and re-evaluating that decision every day.”
However, Republican Westchester County Executive and gubernatorial candidate Rob Astorino and Long Island Republican Congressman Pete King this afternoon reiterated their call to suspend flights from West African counties.