HHS chief: ‘We could have done much better’ on Ebola

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Health and Human Services Secretary Sylvia Mathews Burwell said Wednesday that the government could have done a “much better” job overseeing a Dallas hospital where two healthcare workers have contracted Ebola.

“What we could have done much better is the oversight of the implementation of the protocols,” Burwell said in an interview with NBC’s Today show.


Burwell twice sidestepped questions about whether she had confidence in Texas Health Presbyterian Hospital, where the two workers provided care to Thomas Eric Duncan, who died last week from the disease.

Instead, she listed the extra precautions that have been put in place over the last several days, including additional staffing, training and 24-hour monitoring to ensure protocols are being met.

Burwell also pointed to the surge in CDC resources after the first healthcare worker’s infection. The CDC has sent nearly two dozen staff members to assist the Dallas hospital with infection control and training.

The secretary would not say whether the two infected patients in Dallas would be transferred to one of the country’s four hospitals that are specifically equipped to handle Ebola.

“We will keep all options and considerations right now,” she said. “We will continue to monitor the situation and our people are on site doing that right now.”

All of the other Americans who have become infected with the virus have been transferred to those facilities. Those patients, though contracted the disease in West Africa, where an outbreak has claimed over 4,000 lives, and were not diagnosed in the U.S.

The second case of a hospital worker being infected by Ebola has sparked scrutiny over federal health officials’ handling of the disease.

In the four days since the first healthcare worker became infected, federal health officials have acknowledged that the government’s response in Dallas could have been more hands-on.

Anthony Fauci, director of the Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases, also said Wednesday morning that the CDC could have taken "a much more involved role" in training procedures for health workers. 

"What happened there [in Dallas], regardless of the reason, is not acceptable. It shouldn't have happened,” he told MSNBC.