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Ebola exposes need for better health care worker protection

As some North Carolina residents have been glued to their televisions listening to news about the recent Ebola outbreak and scare in Texas, the importance of providing better protection to health care workers administering treatment to people has become evident. The fact that two nurses contracted the disease while wearing protective gear underscores the need for improved measures.

According to news reports, both women contracted the illness after providing care to an infected man who later died. The fact that they contracted the disease demonstrates the importance of medical facilities providing better protection to their workers who deal with patients carrying potentially deadly illnesses.

In addition to Ebola, health care workers routinely encounter people with a wide range of diseases every day. Medical facilities should strive to reduce the incidence of their workers contracting diseases through contacting patients. They can do so by implementing better safety standards, encouraging reporting and not retaliating against workers who speak out about unsafe practices. Increased OSHA inspections may also be in order.

Although new steps are being made to increase safety, circumstances are unpredictable. When one is exposed to poorly enforced or nonexistent safety standards in their workplace, both their health and the overall health care system can suffer. Workers who contract illnesses or sustain injuries while working on the job should be able to access workers' compensation benefits for the harm they endure as a result. An attorney may be able to guide their client through workers' compensation filing.

Source: EHS Today, "Ebola Outbreak Shows Need for Stronger Protection for Health Care Workers", Sandy Smith, October 17, 2014

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