Virginia Hospital Center refused to admit the potential Ebola patient from the Pentagon on Friday, according to county officials, despite the hospital saying two weeks earlier that it was ready to handle such patients.
Responding to an inquiry from ARLnow.com today, the Arlington County Fire Department confirmed reports that VHC refused the woman — who at the time was thought to potentially have the deadly Ebola virus — when medics brought her to the hospital. She never left the ambulance.
“We were turned away,” said ACFD spokeswoman Lt. Sarah Marchegiani. “We followed our protocol and brought the patient to the closest hospital (VHC), at which point we were rerouted to Fairfax Inova.”
VHC has not responded to multiple requests for comment from ARLnow.com. Marchegiani said the hospital claimed not to be prepared for such a patient, even though the department had previously been told VHC could accept suspected Ebola patients.
“The reason told to our medical director was that they couldn’t handle the patient,” said Marchegiani. Earlier this month, however, VHC told TV station WUSA 9 that it was ready to deal with potential Ebola patients.
“Virginia Hospital Center wants to reassure our community that the Hospital has the infrastructure and procedures already in place to screen, and if necessary, isolate, test and treat all high-risk patients. We drill and prepare for just such situations; therefore, our staff is highly trained to take appropriate precautions for a suspected and/or confirmed Ebola case.
A multi-disciplinary taskforce has reviewed our infection control guidelines and reinforced education of the Hospital staff to ensure it can detect a patient with Ebola Virus Disease, protect all healthcare workers so they can safely care for the patient, and respond to the patient in a timely manner.”
An ARLnow.com tipster indicates emergency responders called the VHC emergency room from the scene at the Pentagon, and were told to bring the patient over. The tipster claims hospital administration refused to allow the patient inside once she arrived at the hospital. The person tells ARLnow.com there was a “heated exchange” between the emergency physician and hospital administration inside the emergency room while the patient waited in the ambulance. The tipster also claims hospital administration worried it would lose business if it came to be seen as an “Ebola hospital.”
The county’s emergency officials reportedly have had talks with officials at VHC since the incident. ACFD confirms VHC has agreed to accept potential Ebola patients in the future.
Arlington County officials also have confirmed that the patient had not traveled to West Africa, as she allegedly first told authorities. In fact, she had not left the country at all, the county said, and had no contact with other potentially infected people.
“She had stated that she had traveled to Sierra Leone at the scene and did exhibit symptoms consistent with Ebola, so responders took all appropriate steps,” said Diana Sun, Arlington County’s Director of Communications. “There was an investigative process that went beyond Arlington. During the course of this, people close to the patient were interviewed and stated that she had not left the country. The patient herself, later in the afternoon, recanted her story and said that she had not left the country. When that last piece came in, public health officials felt confident in not pursuing” further testing for the Ebola virus.
There’s no word yet on whether the woman will face any charges.