Ebola in Dallas: No Excuses For the CDC

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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.

32 thoughts on “Ebola in Dallas: No Excuses For the CDC

  1. So can we forget about “voluntary” quarantines, now? Remember a time when a vacancy happened in the government and the President said, “Let’s see if we can find someone who really knows something about the purpose of the agency he is going to take charge of.”? Now we get political hacks who can’t find their butt’s with both hands, help and a roadmap, but they are loyal party members and contributors to the campaign fund. Remember FEMA? Remember the Norwegian ambassador-designate? Hell, remember Don Rumsfeld?

  2. I saw reports on CNN and MSNBC claiming that this current ‘Ebola in Dallas’ crisis belongs squarely at the feet of the nasty Republicans because they did not approve funding appropriations for the CDC and have not approved the Obama Administration’s nominee for Surgeon General intimating that the spot is vacant (conveniently forgetting the that the acting Surgeon General is Rear Admiral Boris Lushniak). I guess nothing is the responsibility of the present administration.

    jvb

  3. Gotta make sure the red states get hit the worst, you know, before the elections. No, really. Think about it: The reasonable people will avoid mixing with other persons of unknown risk. That will keep reasonable people from going to the polls. Unattentive, ignorant and stupid people WILL go to the polls – just the kind of people the blue people know the red states don’t have enough of – and some of them might actually carry Ebola and spread it at the polling places. Crisis manufactured – crisis that won’t be allowed to go to waste – and to boot, a win at the polls for the blue people in a red state.

    Or wait, better: What better excuse than a threat of an Ebola epidemic to postpone or cancel elections? That’ll work, too. That’ll expose those racist, sexist, homophobic, budget-cutting teabaggers for what cruel fools they are; after all, everybody knows the only trajectory for government funding is ever upward, no matter what. (DISCLAIMER: The preceding may have been composed in a moment of severe bodily frailty, by a pathological pessimist haltingly, partially, fuzzily and involuntarily channeling Blameblakeart.)

    • spread it at the polling place
      ***********
      Here in FL you can get an absentee ballot just because you want one.
      We just voted and mailed ours back yesterday.
      Sometimes it is hard to get from the precinct you work in to the precinct you live in (and must vote in) at the right time to vote.
      Although, I would have walked ten miles on my hands over broken glass to vote against Charlie Christ. 🙂

    • Your disclaimer notwithstanding, you may have hit on something. Cancel elections you know you’re going to lose? Sounds good to me.

  4. Are we terrified yet?
    *************
    I have been since day one.
    I work in healthcare.
    I once worked in Infection Control.
    I wasn’t kidding when I said I was going to lay in some supplies.
    Medications, IV fluids.
    The trouble is, once a person really gets sick you needs access to multiple pints of fresh blood, possibly a ventilator (breathing) and dialysis (failing kidneys).
    So, it’s really no point.

    Once again we will all be the victims of our useless government.
    When will people admit that Obama was a huge mistake?
    When they have to bury their kids in their backyard?

    • “The trouble is, once a person really gets sick you needs access to multiple pints of fresh blood…”

      No wonder there have been so many blood drives in my local area recently. [slapping forehead] Finlay, I can’t help suspecting someone is anticipating an epidemic – and not just the perennial afflictions of flu.

      Is donated blood tested for Ebola before it’s transfused?

      Some future Nobel Prize winner needs to write a book, “The Audacity of Not Being Terrified.” [Note to self: Turn that sarcasm OFF!]

      • Is donated blood tested for Ebola before it’s transfused?
        ******
        Prior to this outbreak, no.
        If they are not now, would they admit it?
        They will say they are asking questions and taking temps. @@
        I’m just waiting for the news story to come regarding someone getting infected through a transfusion or other blood product.

        And another thing, taking temperatures is worthless.
        Fever + 2 Tylenol = no fever.

  5. – and some of them might actually carry Ebola and spread it at the polling places. Crisis manufactured – crisis that won’t be allowed to go to waste –
    ***************
    You know, as outlandish as that sounds, I wouldn’t be surprised if it actually happens.
    How far the mighty have fallen.

  6. Without getting into the political issues why didn’t the CDC/hospital enforce a travel ban on all health care workers that were treating the index patient for 30 days? We now learn that of a new case of a nurse that just flew on a Frontier flight has tested positively for the disease. Now the CDC has to get in touch with 130 passengers on that plane and potentially everyone in both airports. Nancy Snyderman is an ethics dunce for violating the voluntary quarantine but this infected nurse is far worse.

  7. Your solution assumes that we have a President actually interested in managing the Government. Who would even consider asking for a plan, learning the details and holding people responsible. That has not occurred once, in my recollection, during this Administration. From DOJ Fast & Furious, through IRS, HHS, Secret Service, VA, ad nauseum. There are no repercussions for Bureaucrats, other than being allowed to retire with full pensions and medical. Unless we begin to hold people accountable, at the ballot box, regardless of party affiliation there is no hope for the future of this Country. Next the President will say that, gee, he found out about the Ebola Problem watching TV!

  8. I would like to have a journalist actually ask the CDC head (who has been at the CDC for 30 years) why the CDC decided travel bans and restrictions were a bad idea in 2010. Before that, the CDC had stated they were a good idea and prudent. I would also like a journalist ask him if he should be held personally responsible for the deaths of any healthcare workers caused by the inadequate safety precautions he and the CDC assured everyone were sufficient just a week ago.

    • I guarantee we have plans in place. But plans are only as good as those implementing them. I’m certain our plans in place require tough decisions that may be ugly but for the utilitarian good… El Presidente has already indicated he will not close off an entire country because it would be “unfair”.

      Seriously?

    • I am assuming those plans were scrapped along with the travel bans in 2010. All those plans were formulated under the evil Bush regime, so I guess they needed new kinder, gentler plans.

  9. “Media interviews with Thomas Duncan’s family argued that he was incompetently treated because he was black.”

    Which is utter crap. Shortly before his death, one of his family members (I don’t recall which) was interviewed and told reporters he believed Duncan was being treated exceptionally well, that the hospital was bending over backwards for him. He was extremely happy at his treatment and didn’t think it could be better. Then Jesse Jackson showed up. Then the family began screaming and crying about ill treatment because he was black.

    Tripe.

    “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.”

    I think at this point, with Prezzie O checked out and everyone else thoroughly elbows deep in incompetence and scandal, the entire administration is just holding on for 2 years until hopefully some grown-ups can arrive to start running things again. I envision this Lord of the Flies scene as the chaotic and savage chase of Jack’s tribe after Ralph comes to an end when they run into the Naval Officer who had come ashore and suddenly things could be made right again.

    Jack, how much cynicism does it take, at this point, to wonder if the Administration and Democrats are simply slow-playing this Ebola scare as another distraction to avoid talking about their colossal failures of the past 6 years?

    • Not much, but when you use a threatened pandemic to distract from a botched war on terrorists, I think you are running out of options. It was so, so obvious that a myriad of catastrophes were looming by 2012 and earlier, since it was equally obvious that nobody was steering the ship of state. Two years? 2015 is guaranteed to be worse than 2014, and 2016 worse yet. The effects of corruption, incompetence, arrogance and negligence are cumulative, even exponential.

      This month, Paul Krugman actually published argued that Obama has had one of the great Presidencies. What is that? Link-baiting? Delusion? Denial? Insanity? Evil? Not even cynicism does this justice.

      • It is Paul Krugman… I’d say for someone who swallows Keynesianism hook-line-and-sinker and is essentially the High Priest of that religion, it makes sense for him to be deluded about Obama so thoroughly as to still believe he’s a great President.

    • Which is utter crap. Shortly before his death, one of his family members (I don’t recall which) was interviewed and told reporters he believed Duncan was being treated exceptionally well, that the hospital was bending over backwards for him. He was extremely happy at his treatment and didn’t think it could be better. Then Jesse Jackson showed up. Then the family began screaming and crying about ill treatment because he was black.
      **************
      There is a new race baiting rable-rouser on the loose, Ben Crump.

    • Thanks for the compliment. High praise, coming from you. And thanks for the link. I knew a little about ebola, enough to scare me, but now, given the apparent lack of concern and competence shown by our government, I am terrified.

  10. Now there is new information that pinpoints a reason we need scientists in addition to physicians to deal with disasters like this. The second nurse infected in Dallas called the CDC to tell them she had a slight fever of 99.5 ºF and asked if she could get on a commercial flight. Because it wasn’t 100.4 ºF, they said OK. This is based off the idea that everyone’s normal body temperature is 98.6 ºF. It isn’t, it is the AVERAGE body temperature. At 98.6 ºF, I feel bad and at 99.5 ºF, I might be woozy because my normal temp is 97.1 ºF. Why can’t the medical community figure this out?

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