An Ebola Response Team is preparing for the worst in New Hampshire, as the state names Dartmouth-Hitchcock the designated treatment center for any suspected cases.
Chief Medical Officer Dr. Edward Merrens says he has been discussing this with state health officials for more than a month now.
This week, the Department of Health and Human Services made the announcement. With 7,000 employees, 1,100 doctors, an expert infectious disease group, and certain structural designs, Dartmouth-Hitchcock Medical Center has become the Granite State's designated treatment center for any suspected cases.
"When you put those pieces together, this is the place that can help lead and help serve the region," Dr. Merrens said.
At Dartmouth-Hitchcock the ambulance bay has a separate entrance to an isolation area.
Many hospitals don't have a direct entrance to any such room, which would mean transporting the patient through waiting rooms, exposing other people to the deadly disease. But there's no chance of that happening here.
"We are not at a normal entrance to the hospital," Dr. Merrens said as he showed NECN the decontamination room.
The decontamination area connects to a single-bed treatment room, equipped with Telehealth capabilities, like a tablet or even a robot, so doctors can treat patients without direct contact.
"An infectious disease specialist can sit outside the door and say, 'tell me about how you're feeling, tell me about this,' and not be in the room," Dr. Merrens explained. "The two people infected in the US were nurses. We are dedicated to our nurses and making sure we are protecting them the best we can."
The hospital has identified fifty people, doctors, nurses, and techs, who will make up the Ebola Response Team. They will become experts in how to handle suspected cases, especially how to put on and take off full protective hazmat gear.
"The dedication has to be when you take off the equipment and we are dedicated to doing it right," Dr. Merrens said.
He also makes it clear, the threat of Ebola is low.
"The bigger looming crisis in the United States is influenza," he said. "Tens of thousands of people will die this year from influenza."
Dr. Merrens is encouraging families to take necessary precautions against the flu, while his team stands ready for the "what ifs" of Ebola.
"You hope the 'ifs' never happen, but if they do we want to be prepared," he said.
The Ebola Response Team will begin high-level intensive training and simulations at Dartmouth-Hitchcock on Friday.