N.Y. AFSCME Members Help Contain Ebola

NEW YORK – A doctor who successfully recovered from the Ebola virus last month can thank a team of dedicated public health care workers who volunteered to care for him.

Also crucial to battling deadly diseases like the one that afflicted Dr. Craig Spencer: a coalition of unions – including DC 37 – advocating for patients and the health care workers of Bellevue Hospital, where he was treated.

New York City was ready to deal with the virus. As the first Ebola case made headlines, Mayor Bill de Blasio’s administration began training an elite corps of Bellevue Hospital health care workers in the Ebola protocol established by the Centers for Disease Control (CDC).

Police and emergency workers at Bellevue in AFSCME Locals 371, 420 and 1549 were trained to assess and isolate anyone suspected of having the disease. Medical legal investigators in Local 768 and morgue technicians in Local 420 got training in handling and transporting Ebola victims.

Dispatched by Police 911 operators in Local 1549, a special team of DC 37 EMTs in Local 2507 and their supervisors in Local 3621 transported Spencer in an FDNY Haztac truck to Bellevue, one of six hospitals in the state designated to diagnose and treat possible Ebola patients.

The Ebola team rushed Spencer to an isolation ward. Meanwhile, EMTs and their supervisors decontaminated the emergency vehicles used to transport Spencer, as they would any suspected Ebola patients. Following CDC protocol, chemists from Local 375 analyzed the patient’s specimens daily and sent them to CDC.

Unions representing Ebola first responders met with hospital management, police and fire departments, state and city health officials, and city commissioners to establish a preparedness plan and ensure that workers got updated training and protective gear.