We all count on nurses to be there for us when we’re at our sickest and most vulnerable, and it’s everyone’s problem if nurses are not protected. But according to an overwhelming majority of nurses surveyed by National Nurses United at facilities across the United States, many hospitals remain unprepared.
And Ebola is exposing a broader problem: the sober reality of our fragmented, uncoordinated private health-care system. We have enormous health-care resources in the United States. What we lack is a national, integrated system needed to respond effectively to a severe national threat such as Ebola.
The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention issues guidelines but has no authority to enforce them. Hospitals have wide latitude to pick and choose what protocols they will follow; too often in a corporate medical system, those decisions are based on budget priorities, not what is best for the health and safety of patients and caregivers. Congress and state lawmakers put few mandates on what hospitals must do in the face of pandemics or other emergencies, and local health officials do not have the authority to direct procedures and protocols at hospitals.