The Ebola Crisis: Coordination of a Multi-Agency Response


Hearing Summary Courtesy of The Market Institute

The House Committee on Oversight and Government Reform met this week to assess the government’s response to positive Ebola cases on U.S. soil as well as the ongoing outbreak in Africa. Chairman Darrell Issa (R-Calif) said in his opening statement that the situation with the Ebola outbreak is rapidly developing and Americans are understandably concerned.

The first witness, Honorable Michael Lumpkin, Assistant Secretary of Defense at U.S. Department of Defense testified in his opening statement that the U.S. has deployed a top-notch team with vast experience in dealing with disasters and humanitarian assistance. The USAID Disaster Assistance Response Team is leading the USG effort to address the Ebola epidemic abroad. In Liberia, the principal issue is not a healthcare crisis, rather a logistical nightmare with a health issue. Infrastructure in that county is in total disrepair, but the lack of passable roads will help stem the outbreak of Ebola. the safety and well-being of our deployed forces remain of particular importance. The Department recently disseminated new policy regarding the training, screening, and monitoring DoD personnel will undergo prior to, during, and after deployments to West Africa.

The second witness, Honorable John Roth, Inspector General at U.S. Department of Homeland Security testified in his opening statement that in their audit, DHS did not adequately conduct a needs assessment before purchasing protective equipment and antiviral drugs. DHS reported spending $9.5 million on pandemic protective equipment beginning in 2006, yet did not identify its needs for protective equipment. They could not ascertain the justification for the types and amount of protective gear DHS purchased for a pandemic response. DHS has also not effectively managed its antiviral drug stockpile. Based on their analysis of antiviral drugs sent to components, OHA and components did not have complete or accurate inventories of prepositioned antiviral drugs. DHS concurred with all 11 of their recommendations and 1 recommendation has been fully implemented.

The third witness, Honorable Nicole Lurie, M.D., Assistant Secretary at U.S. Department of Health and Human Services testified in her opening statement that the spread of the Ebola virus in West Africa is unprecedented, but they are working diligently, as part of the global community, to support the response. There is a remote likelihood that a significant outbreak could occur in America. There have been increased improvements in preparedness, response, and recovery at all levels of government since the initial outbreak. HHS is convening weekly conference calls with World Health Organization and physicians from other developed countries to discuss best practices and receive updates.

The fourth witness, Deborah Burger, RN, Co-President at National Nurses United testified in her opening statement that In a survey done by National Nurses United 85% of RNs say they have not been adequately trained and the level of preparedness for Ebola in facilities is woefully insufficient. The response to Ebola from US hospitals and governmental agencies has so far been dangerously inconsistent and woefully inadequate. The lack of mandates in favor of shifting guidelines from multiple agencies, and reliance on voluntary compliance, has left nurses and other caregivers uncertain, severely unprepared and vulnerable to infection.

The final witness, Rabih Torbay, Senior Vice President, International Operations at International Medical Corps testified in his opening statement that coordination in emergency response is critical. In these critical circumstances, they reached out to key actors, such as WHO, the CDC and USAID even before the deployment of their team. Assuming there are 27 Ebola Treatment Units regionally, and 120 Community Care Centers, they anticipate it would require about $1.6 billion for the next 6 months to bring the disease under control. Training of health workers and first responders continue to be a major need. However, there is no doubt that we will stop this outbreak, end the deaths, and, if done correctly, build the tools to prevent another outbreak of such proportions.

In response to questioning, John Roth said:

  • DHS did not look into alternatives purchasing methods when it came to acquiring protective gear

In response to questioning, Nicole Lurie said:

  • There are two promising Ebola vaccines in development, but we also need to be thinking about other emerging diseases

In response to questioning, Michael Lumpkin said:

  • Every step has been taken to ensure soldiers in West Africa are protected against contracting Ebola

Hearing Video:

AAPS Statement Submitted to Committee

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