While news of Ebola quarantines being lifted in Dallas on Monday brought a measure of relief in the United States’ effort to combat the spread of Ebola, healthcare workers and officials across the globe are saying that the only way to contain what could become the “definitive humanitarian disaster of our generation” is with a united response that includes emergency funding, uniform implementation of safety measures, and federally mandated action.
In contrast to the American healthcare system, that pits patient and worker health against profit, world health authorities are commending the national efforts of two West African nations that have successfully stemmed the transmission of Ebola this week, illustrating an example of this united healthcare initiative that analysts say is “worth following.”
Rose Ann DeMoro, executive director of the nation’s largest union of nurses, National Nurses United, writes, “In the U.S., long experience with the privately-run corporate hospital chains that dominate care delivery have made the sober reality abundantly clear—unless the healthcare industry is mandated to put the safety of patients, nurses, and other caregivers above their profit motive, the Ebola threat will only get worse.”
Over the weekend, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention announced it is revising their Ebola safety protocols, including a measure directing healthcare workers to use protective gear “with no skin showing.” The changes come days after it was revealed that the nurses who treated U.S. Ebola patient Thomas Eric Duncan, two of whom contracted the virus, were not given proper protective equipment nor any mandatory training.
“Unless the healthcare industry is mandated to put the safety of patients, nurses, and other caregivers above their profit motive, the Ebola threat will only get worse.”
—Rose Ann DeMoro, National Nurses United
Despite such advisories, the guidelines are unenforceable in U.S. hospitals. As DeMoro notes, “the CDC still does not have the authority to compel hospitals, which have repeatedly shown they will pick and choose whatever protocols they like, usually based on their budget goals and profit margins.”
This week, NNU is holding a National Week of Action and has started a petition calling on President Obama to issue an executive order mandating uniform, national standards and protocols that all hospitals must follow with the threat of revoking federal funding should the healthcare facility not comply.
Analysts charge that the exportation of neoliberal economic models, which have shaped the for-profit healthcare model in the U.S., has similarly dismantled public infrastructure around the world and paved the way for the Ebola crisis which is currently sweeping countries in West Africa today.
On Monday, the World Health Organization announced that Nigeria and Senegal are now “free” of Ebola virus transmission. The successes, WHO says, can be attributed largely to a united national response, during which federal and state governments “provided ample financial and material resources, as well as well-trained and experienced national staff.”