Preparing for the next pandemic, DC hospital opens biocontainment unit


Using lessons learned from COVID-19, MedStar Washington Hospital Center opened a unique facility designed to stop diseases from spreading.

It is a 15-bed unit with advanced filtration that can stop infectious particles from moving into the hallway, or to other parts of the hospital.

“This is an example of forward thinking and being prepared for the next pandemic,” said Dr. Shane Kappler, medical director of the new biocontainment unit.

The unit can be used to isolate patients with highly infectious diseases, including severe acute respiratory syndromes and even Ebola.

Kappler said having such a unit when the COVID pandemic began would have been “invaluable.”

“We will have more in our future,” Kappler said. “Preparing now and doing it the right way will allow us to successfully navigate the challenges we come across.”

Hospital leaders began coming up with the idea in 2014 and 2015 when there was an Ebola scare in the country.

“During that time, we treated three patients who were suspected of having Ebola,” said Craig DeAtley, the hospital’s director of emergency preparedness.

In order to treat those patients, the hospital had to use up a significant amount of valuable space. They dedicated 40% of the hospital’s emergency department area to the care of those three patients.

“We all agreed in the end that that was not a sustainable option,” said DeAtley.

In October, the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services selected MedStar Washington Hospital Center to be a “regional emerging special pathogen treatment center.”

There are only 13 facilities in the country with that designation.

They are all hospitals with enhanced capability and capacity to care for highly infectious diseases, such as Ebola or COVID-19.

“These hospitals are continuously ready and available to care for a special pathogen patient medically evacuated from overseas or diagnosed within the United States,” according to the department.

Source WTOP