Ebola In America: It’s a Matter of Trust

Ebola In America: It’s a Matter of Trust

Image by CDC/Cynthia Goldsmith permission

Image by CDC/Cynthia Goldsmith Used with permission

During each of the five major Ebola outbreaks since 1976, the official line of reassurance to Americans was always something along the lines of, “Don’t worry, it’ll never get out of the jungle.” Forty years on, President Obama was still peddling the official “Don’t worry!” lie, telling Americans it was “unlikely” the disease would ever reach our shores, because, I guess, if West Africans have their virus, they can keep it? But when that government fact became yet another government myth, the official lie quickly switched to, “Don’t worry! America has the best healthcare system on Earth! We’re prepared for any eventuality!” Thankfully, it hasn’t taken another forty years to find out that those statements are boldly inaccurate, as well.

In the weeks before Thomas Eric Duncan was sent home from a Dallas hospital with the Ebola he brought back from Liberia and a bottle of antibiotics, National Nurses United conducted a survey of registered nurses across the country and found that 80% said their hospital had not communicated any policy regarding admittance of Ebola patients. Nearly ninety percent said they haven’t been given a comprehensive education on the disease. Forty percent claimed their hospital has no plan to properly equip isolation rooms and less than ten percent said they were unaware if their hospital even had such a plan in place. Does this sound to you like competent preparation against one of the most vicious pathogens known to man?

Now, as for having the “best healthcare system on Earth,” the Commonwealth Fund, a private foundation that has been supporting independent research on healthcare issues in America since 1918, consistently ranks the United States’ health services dead last when compared to other industrial nations. It has done so in 2014, 2010, 2007, 2006 and 2004, mostly due to a lack of universal coverage, substandard health outcomes and quality, and the increasing burden of administrative hassles. So an ordinary citizen has to wonder, does this sound like a shining example of healthcare for the rest of the world?

Registered nurse Bonnie Castillo, director of NNU’s Registered Nurse Response Network, reminds us that, “we do not have a national health care system, but a fragmented collection of private healthcare companies each with their own way of responding.” Further underlining her point is the fact that in 2011, over 700,000 patients acquired an easily preventable infection during a hospital stay. Approximately 75,000 died from those infections. Dr. Peter Pronovost, the director of the Armstrong Institute for Patient Safety and Quality at Johns Hopkins, states that while the issue is improving nationwide, “there still are pockets of hospitals that have rates of infection that are several times the national average. The reality is that oftentimes there’s very little that’s being done about it.” If these “pocket” hospital staffs can’t manage to wash their hands or sterilize equipment properly, how do you think they’ll manage at keeping an even more serious threat under control?

As much as the Obama administration and the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention are trying to show a coordinated, nationwide front against the Ebola threat, it is clear that such an infrastructure simply does not exist — and they know it. And so does a large percentage of the population: a Pew Research poll conducted between October 2nd and October 5th showed that 41% of Americans have either “not too much confidence” or “no confidence at all” in the government’s ability to control Ebola (including 42% of Independents). That kind of response is frightening in light of the threat being faced, and is certainly a by-product of Obama’s administration being the most secretive and deceptive in recent history, as labeled by the Associated Press and others.

The time to worry has surely long passed, but vitally more important, now is the time to be educated. Honest information breeds confidence and saves lives. Lying about the risks, response and severity of our current danger will only lead to worsening the Ebola situation, amongst the public and the press, both now and in the future. Sadly, even if the government ever gets around to telling us the complete truth, how few will be willing to trust them?


Patrick M Arthur is freelance journalist who has previously covered the Occupy Wall Street Movement and Major League Baseball. He is a member of the National Writers Union with his first book, “Occupation: Gonzo” due out soon.

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