Robert Kadlec, the Assistant Secretary for Preparedness and Response at the U.S. Department of Health & Human Services, made a visit to Nebraska Medicine's Biocontainment Unit Tuesday morning and called the facility a "national treasure."
Kadlec serves as the Secretary's principal advisor on matters related to public health emergencies, including bioterrorism. The office leads the nation in preventing, responding to and recovering from the adverse health effects of manmade and naturally occurring disasters and public health emergencies.
The United States Centers for Disease Control commissioned the Nebraska Biocontainment Unit in 2005. In 2014, three patients with Ebola virus disease were medically evacuated from Africa to the Nebraska Biocontainment Unit.
It was one of three units selected to care for United States citizens. The unit is a secured area with highly trained staff who safely provide all levels of care to patients infected with deadly infectious diseases.
Tuesday, Kadlec toured the facility and watched a training class.
Staff participates in numerous drills throughout the year and most work full-time in other areas of Nebraska Medicine but remain on-call to report promptly for duty when the unit is activated. The entire unit is specially isolated from the rest of the hospital, using its own ventilation system and security access.
"As we got more and more into taking patients, and the unit was more and more occupied, patients, family, staff," UNMC chancellor Jeffrey Gold said. "The need for people to be trained for the specific care of Ebola across the country and around the world started to escalate very quickly. We needed to improvise settings to do it."
The next step is the completion of the National Ebola Training and Education Center, which is set to open in the Fall of 2018. Kavlec says this facility will be the model of how to treat Ebola around the world. The facility will even have the federal government funding some of the equipment, pending the approval of Congress.