Texas is creating two new biocontainment facilities for treating possible future Ebola patients, one in Richardson and the other in Galveston, Gov. Rick Perry announced Tuesday, as two Dallas nurses remain hospitalized out of state with the potentially deadly virus.
The Methodist Campus for Continuing Care in Richardson will host the new facility on a floor of its hospital, as well as in a wing of its ICU best-suited for treating infectious patients.
Doctors and nurses from UT Southwestern Medical Center in Dallas will staff the new unit there, with nurses, lab technicians and other health care workers from Parkland Memorial Hospital in Dallas working alongside them.
Perry stressed the need for better Ebola preparedness at a news conference Tuesday at UTSW to unveil the new Ebola-ready facilities, weeks after the first U.S. Ebola patient sought treatment at Texas Health Presbyterian Hospital and days after two nurses who treated him became infected.
"The past three weeks have taught us that treating an infectious disease like Ebola is not just a theoretical problem," Perry said.
He acknowledged the burden Presbyterian had shouldered in becoming the first U.S. hospital to diagnose a patient with Ebola, when Thomas Eric Duncan was admitted with the disease weeks before he died.
"Presbyterian has played an important role," Perry said. "With that said, that hospital has been on the front line. They have paid a heavy price."
In a statement released Tuesday afternoon, officials with Presbyterian said they look forward to sharing what they've learned and that they plan to remain active participants in the shared goal of defeating Ebola.
"As the first U.S. hospital to face the challenge of both diagnosing and treating Ebola patients, Texas Health Presbyterian Hospital Dallas will continue to share our learnings with health officials at all levels of government, our fellow hospitals and the broader health care community. A coordinated response is in all our best interests, and we remain active participants in discussions to advance the shared goal of defeating this insidious disease,"
Dr. Brett Giroir, the Texas A&M Health Science Center chief whom Perry tapped this month to head the state's Ebola task force, said the new facilities should prevent such problems in the future, should new patients be diagnosed.
"What we are trying to do with the new protocol," Giroir said, "is to learn from our current experience."
In addition to the facility in Richardson, an Ebola treatment biocontainment facility is being established at the University of Texas Medical Branch at Galveston.
Previously, officials had eyed sending Ebola patients to one of four top-level biocontainment facilities in the U.S.: Emory University Hospital in Atlanta, the National Institutes of Health Clinical Center in Maryland, Nebraska Medical Center in Omaha or St. Patrick Hospital in Missoula, Montana.
Dallas nurse Nina Pham is currently being treated in isolation at NIH, while her coworker Amber Vinson is being treated at Emory, the same hospital where Dr. Kent Brantly of Fort Worth recovered from the virus. Officials have still not determined exactly how Pham and Vinson contracted the disease.
On Monday, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention released new guidelines for how health care workers should gear up to treat Ebola patients after Pham and Vinson, were diagnosed with the potentially deadly disease after treating Thomas Duncan, the first Ebola patient diagnosed in the U.S.
The guidelines call for face shields, hoods, boot covers and other garb that leave no part of the body exposed. They also call for a trained monitor to supervise the donning and doffing of protective wear. And they call for repeated training and practice.