Texas Children's Hospital has announced plans to build an eight-bed special isolation unit at the institution's West Campus location. The new unit will be specifically oriented for children with highly infectious diseases, including Ebola, pandemic influenza and enterovirus D68. Following a recent visit from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), the hospital has been designated as a pediatric Ebola treatment facility by the State of Texas.
Presenty, only four patient biocontainment units — specialized facilities equipped and staffed to care for patients with contagious infectious diseases — exist in the entire country.
"We believe this will be an indispensable resource to our local community, Texas and the nation," said Dr. Mark Kline.
"We will build a state-of-the-art isolation unit designed and staffed to provide the highest quality care and treatment for infants and children with serious or life-threatening infectious diseases of public health significance, always with the greatest possible margin of safety," Dr. Mark Kline, physician-in-chief at Texas Children’s and chair of the Department of Pediatrics at Baylor College of Medicine, said in a statement. "We believe this will be an indispensable resource to our local community, Texas and the nation."
The new isolation unit will incorporate the latest scientific and technological approaches to biocontainment, such as negative air pressure, laminar air flow, high-efficiency particulate air (HEPA) filtration, separate ventilation, anterooms, biosafety cabinets, a point-of-care laboratory, special security access, autoclaves and incinerators. Additionally, there will be two levels of protection from airborne particles, as well as a comprehensive waste management plan.
The unit will be entirely equipped to care for any infant or child with a serious communicable disease and, with the high level of care, the well being of health care workers, other patients and their families can be protected. A point-of-care biosafety level 3 laboratory will allow the care team to monitor the progress of patients and perform rapid detection methods for identifying unusual pathogens. Each of the eight beds in the unit will be housed in private rooms.
The specialized unit will be led by Dr. Gordon Schutze, who will serve as medical director, as well as Dr. Judith Campbell and Dr. Amy Arrington, who will be the associate medical directors for the unit.
The hospital has been implementing a detailed plan to identify, isolate and treat suspected cases of Ebola since the summer. As part of the effort, specific protocols were developed which outline steps staff would take in the case that a patient with Ebola symptoms arrived at the facility.
In order to decrease the risk of exposure and to provide the care necessary, Texas Children's has identified specific areas and units to be responsible for caring for an Ebola patient. The health care staff in those areas have received "intense, ongoing training and simulation" to prepare.