Ebola Stigma in Hospitals

November 3, 2014, West Orange, New Jersey.   This morning I took my Mom for routine blood work at the substantial outpatient facility of a top local hospital chain.  Coincidentally, she had to undergo some scheduled diagnostic tests which prevented her from eating or drinking for several hours prior to the tests.  Since a prescription for this blood work had been sitting on a “To-Do” pile for a few months and it also required several hours of fasting beforehand, I figured we would try to get everything done this morning at this facility.

“Have you traveled to West Africa or had direct contact with an Ebola patient within the past 6 months?”

The attendants could not have been nicer and everything went smoothly other than having to be there at 7:45 AM.   After the two (2) ultrasounds were completed, we were assisted in getting to the laboratory area where I signed my Mom’s name on the check-in sheet and waited to be called.  Upon hearing my Mom’s name called out by the woman facilitating the insurance registration for the blood work, I walked over in my Mom’s stead since she is significantly visually impaired and was still rather uncomfortable from the aforementioned diagnostic tests. The female registration attendant could not have been more professional or kinder and after I provided my Mom’s insurance information she began asking me a series of questions related to #Ebola.  This very polite attendant asked me if my Mom had traveled to West Africa or had direct contact with an #Ebola patient during the past 6 months?  I thought the question reasonably reflected the current times and also demonstrated the hospital’s conscientious approach to patient and overall medical/facility  safety.

“Have you been HOSPITALIZED at a hospital which treated Ebola patients within the past 6 months?” 

But then she politely asked me if my Mom had been hospitalized at a hospital which had treated #Ebola patients within the past 6 months? Huh? I immediately took issue with this question and respectfully asked the attendant why such information is necessary?  Before she could answer, I added that I suffer from an #autoimmune disease (i.e., Crohn’s Disease) which often requires unpredictable long hospitalizations and I would not in any way hesitate, for example, to be admitted to a wonderful hospital like Emory University Hospital, which has recently successfully treated a few Ebola cases, so why is this New Jersey hospital fueling unnecessary fear in patients by asking such a question? Again, before she could answer, my passion got the best of me and I respectfully told her I found this question discriminatory against people like me who are chronically hospitalized because, other than the fallout from the supreme incompetence demonstrated by the Management Executives responsible for preparing to treat infectious diseases at the Dallas, Texas hospital which unexpectedly received the first Ebola patient, I trust ‪#‎healthcare workers and hospital management staffs to safely isolate the treatment of such patients, and even the associated healthcare workers, if they have direct contact with such infected patients.

In that regard, I trust that the isolation of any such Ebola patient, or a subsequent quarantine of the brave healthcare workers who treated such a patient, will be executed humanely, reasonably and in accordance with scientifically appropriate and current ‪#‎CDC #Ebola Guidelines so that patients admitted to a hospital for typical medical reasons are not treated by the same nurses, doctors and medical technicians until the #CDC Guidelines say it is safe to do so.

Slippery Slope of Stigmatizing Hospital Patient Ebola Policies

I made it clear to this attendant that my discriminatory allegation and passionate frustration were not aimed at her.  They are targeted at the hospital’s policy. She made a facial recognition that she understood and then told me she too has a chronic medical condition which often lands her in the hospital and she completely understands my point of contention with this Ebola hospitalization question.  I then reluctantly answered the question but felt an obligation to share my experience to highlight what I believe is the beginning of stigmatizing hospital patient #Ebola policies.  Having been educated as an attorney, I can’t think of a more “slippery slope” and I pray that hospitals become smarter than that and they contemplate the effects of enacting stigmatizing Ebola policies before implementing what are tantamount to local public health policies.  

Scientifically-sound CDC Ebola Guidelines are necessary to stave off the far worse effects of “Ebola Fear”

Given my abnormally high vulnerability to getting any infection in a hospital due to my ‪#‎autoimmune disease, it is my understanding the #CDC creates such isolating or #quarantine #Ebola guidelines so that any such #Ebola treating hospitals need not temporarily shut down or be ridiculously boycotted or wrongly stigmatized by prospective patients (or even by healthy healthcare workers) who become “scared off” simply from uneducated “Ebola Fear.”  (In the case of Emory University Hospital, these prospective patients should instead feel lucky to be the recipient of medical care from such incredibly dedicated ‪#‎Doctors,‪#‎Nurses and Technicians who might be treating them.)

Hypothetical: After being treated at Emory University Hospital for Crohn’s Disease, will THIS New Jersey Hospital now admit me when my Inflammatory Bowel Disease flares-up?

Let’s say I was recently hospitalized for my ‪#‎Crohns Disease at Emory University Hospital, the largest and most comprehensive health system in the State of Georgia.  I ultimately return to my home in New Jersey but a few weeks later I develop such a serious flare-up from my Inflammatory Bowel Disease that I need to be hospitalized immediately.  These same Ebola-related questions would be asked in the Emergency Room of this New Jersey Hospital prior to my admission.  Would my answer of “Yes” to this alleged discriminatory question compel this local New Jersey hospital not to admit me or to admit me with a stigmatizing “brand” that I was treated in the same VERY LARGE hospital in Georgia which had top-notch #healthcare professionals treating #Ebola patients?

Summary: The Slippery Slope of Hospital Patient Ebola Policies can be so stigmatizing that we could have a public health crisis simply based on “Ebola Fear”  

I don’t see ANY merit to asking this #Ebola question of a patient coincidentally hospitalized at a facility which was also treating an Ebola patient.  Further, it only fuels the public’s unfounded fears about the treatment and contagious nature of #Ebola. More relevant to my medical situation, I find this “hospitalization” question to be egregiously discriminatory to patients who are chronically hospitalized.  Just what was this New Jersey hospital going to do with this information? It is no more relevant than, and in my humble opinion, equally discriminatory as, asking me if I were recently hospitalized with a Gay or Lesbian roommate?  We are sliding down a cultural slippery slope and it must stop before a public health crisis is caused simply by “Ebola Fear.”  

 What do YOU think?

Ebola Virus v. Ebola Fear