Legal, Operational, and Practical Considerations for Hospitals and Health Care Providers in Responding to Communicable Diseases Following the 2014 Ebola Outbreak
35 Pages Posted: 17 May 2015
Date Written: April 23, 2015
This article analyzes some of the potential issues that may arise during epidemics or other public health emergencies. It specifically focuses on legal and operational preparedness experiences at Emory University during the 2014 Ebola crisis. Emory University Hospital was the first health care facility in the U.S. to treat patients diagnosed with Ebola Viral Disease (EVD). Although EVD has particularly frightening symptoms and a high mortality rate, its containment and treatment implicate similar legal, practical, and operational issues as other highly infectious and communicable diseases. These issues include laws related to: isolation and quarantine; travel restrictions; duties to treat highly infectious patients; implications of the federal Emergency Medical Treatment and Active Labor Act (EMTALA); health care workers’ rights to a safe working environment, workers’ compensation, medical leave; confidentiality protections afforded by the HIPAA Privacy Rule; disability protections for patients under the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA); and crisis standards of care and negligence claims. Practical and operational issues are also explored for hospitals and other health providers to consider when facing a public health emergency or other publicized event involving patients with infectious conditions. Hospitals, health care workers, and public health officials can take guidance from these experiences to develop their own response plans in the future.
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