The statement by the nurses union in Dallas describing the Three Stooges level breaches in safety protocols surrounding the treatment of Thomas Duncan, the nation’s first Ebola fatality is shocking, but it should be no surprise, ironically. By now, Americans should be used to being told that our benevolent overseers in the government have matters well in hand, our best interests at heart, and the expertise and resources to do the job governments are supposed to do. They are also used to discovering, especially lately, that the expensive systems and professionals we have been instructed to trust are in truth lazily administered, incompetently run, staffed with too many sluggards just waiting for a paid retirement, and most of all, well aware that failure carries little or no accountability. In the recent past it has been the Secret Service, the Veterans Administration, the State Department, Homeland Security, the IRS, HHS and our military that have shown deficits in management, oversight, planning, professionalism and common sense undermining our trust. Now it is the Center for Disease Control.
Make no mistake, this is one of the functions of government, like road-building, protecting the borders and national defense, that nobody sane questions as indispensable. Only a national agency in charge can possibly coordinate the effort to keep a possible pandemic from U.S. shores. One would think that a thorough plan for something like an Ebola threat would have been in place, constantly tested and improved, and as close to fail-safe as systems can be. The outrageous recitation of incompetence, confusion, carelessness and stupidity from Dallas shows that this was not the case—but then, one would have thought that the website that would be crucial to the enrollment for the President’s “signature accomplishment” would have been thoroughly tested before it was launched too.
The President’s Praetorian Guard in the Democratic Party and the national media were already signalling the looming catastrophe with its preemptive excuses designed to shift blame or proclaim that success is impossible. There wasn’t enough money, of course (there is never enough); it does no good to cut off access to nations with outbreaks; this all so hard, don’t you see? (Nobody can be a successful President today.) Oh, and don’t forget racism, the catch-all, default excuse for all of the nation’s problems and of course, all criticism of the government’s brilliant steward. Media interviews with Thomas Duncan’s family argued that he was incompetently treated because he was black. I’m really looking forward to the argument claiming that the hospital let everyone else be infected by him because he was black too. At the same time, the CDC’s leadership intoned on TV with solemnly nodding heads that it was on the case, that effective protocols were in place, that it was ready, that it was vigilant. Every hospital knew the protocols.
What an amazing, incredible coincidence that the one hospital that had to deal with the first Ebola case was the only one that missed the memos!
It was bullshit. Naturally it was. Go ahead, review the “red line,” “you can keep your health plan,” Susan Rice’s Sunday Tour of Lies, Holder’s Fast and Furious denials, the heroism of Bowe Bergdahl, the declaration that ISIS was no threat, that Russian aggression was so 1980’s, and on, and on. I can wait. The incubation for the Ebola virus is 21 days, after all.
“The protocols that should have been in place in Dallas were not in place, and that those protocols are not in place anywhere in the United States as far as we can tell,” National Nurses United Executive Director RoseAnn DeMoro said Tuesday night. “We’re deeply alarmed.”
No kidding. As I write this, I am listening to CNN’s Sanjay Gupta say that he tried to follow some of the Ebola protocols on the CDC website, and that some were ambiguous, and some just didn’t work. Just as alarming was the jaw-dropping response of the Texas Health Presbyterian Hospital in Dallas to its nurses’ allegations:
“We take compliance very seriously. We have numerous measures in place to provide a safe working environment, including mandatory annual training and a 24-7 hotline and other mechanisms that allow for anonymous reporting.”
Hotline? Annual training? WHAT? Are we terrified yet?
Here is what a competent national leader would have done, long before this point. He would have called in the Secretary of Homeland Security, HHS, and the Director of the CDC. He would have asked for a detailed plan from each of them, thoroughly coordinated, specifying how they were going to keep the nation safe from the contagion. He would tell them that he was going to be watching and assessing regularly—that he would even cancel some fundraising appearances. And he would tell them that each failure attributable to a poor plan or poor execution of it would mean their jobs, a threat they would believe because a competent leader would have a well-established record of holding subordinates accountable for failure.
The fact is that in a government culture where accountability has been discarded, where the leadership’s priorities have been politics, optics, ducking responsibility and blame-shifting, where there is no leadership skill at the top and thus no projection of competent leadership thorough the chain of command, public trust in government competence is irrational, and trust based on wishful partisan denial is unforgivable, and perhaps fatal.