Gov. Brown talks Ebola readiness with officials, hospitals, nurses

Gov. Brown talks Ebola readiness with officials, hospitals, nurses
Sandy Reding, an operating room nurse at Bakersfield Memorial Hospital in Bakersfield, attended a meeting on Ebola preparedness with Gov. Jerry Brown on Tuesday. Her stickers show solidarity with the two nurses who contracted the disease while treating an Ebola-infected patient at Texas Health Presbyterian Hospital. (Melanie Mason/Los Angeles Times)

Even with no confirmed cases of Ebola in California, the state's readiness for the disease was on Gov. Jerry Brown's agenda Tuesday, with the governor holding a series of meetings with public health officials and medical providers.

Among the agencies represented at Tuesday morning's meeting were the state's Health and Human Services Agency, the Department of Public Health and the Division of Occupational Safety and Health, which deals with workplace safety. Brown also met with hospital executives and nurses; he's set to have a discussion Tuesday afternoon with emergency responders and local health directors.


Most of the state's preparedness efforts have centered on communication between health departments, medical providers and state agencies. According to the governor's office, the Department of Public Health has been providing weekly updates to local officials, emergency responders and healthcare providers.

The state's workplace safety agency also released interim guidance on Ebola last week, including how to properly use protective equipment.

The National Nurses United/California Nurses Assn. has called for stricter protocols, including mandates for hospitals in the state to provide sufficient training on Ebola and hazardous material suits for nurses to wear when treating patients who potentially have the disease.

The nurses' labor group has been vocal nationwide, particularly after two nurses at Texas Health Presbyterian Hospital in Dallas contracted the disease from a patient, Thomas Eric Duncan.

Duncan died two weeks ago from the disease; the two nurses have both been transferred to hospitals outside of Texas for treatment.

RoseAnn DeMoro, executive director of the union, said her group expressed concern about hospitals' readiness to treat the disease.

"We stated very, very firmly that none of the hospitals in California are prepared," DeMoro said.

The governor's office did not respond when asked if his administration plans on enforcing the mandates, as DeMoro's group has called for.

DeMoro said she was cheered by the meeting with Brown and other officials.

"They're saying their team is working around the clock to try to address this...We feel this is the first breakthrough in the country where we actually have a leader who is listening to the nurses," she said.

The California Hospital Assn., which also met with Brown on Tuesday, said in a statement that "Californians can be reassured that universal precautions are in place to screen and identify infectious diseases."

The statement, which was jointly released with two California nurses groups, said that "focused education and training programs directed to the treatment of patients with Ebola are underway."

Follow @melmason for more on California government and politics.