December 22, 2014

Missouri Sen. Blunt talks handling of Ebola, halting travel (VIDE0)

Senator Roy Blunt (R-MO) says Ebola is enough cause for concern to stop people from coming into this country from areas where its outbreak continues.

Blunt, speaking Sunday on NBC’s Meet the Press, says travel visas for passengers trying to enter the U.S. from Ebola-stricken countries should be temporarily suspended.

“I’d suspend those visas until we have this under better control and have a sense that the carriers they are using are monitoring this in a better way than they have been up ’til now,” says Blunt.

He says Americans feel less safe than they did a month ago after questions were raised about how hospital workers are protected and trained to handle disease outbreaks.

“People didn’t get upset about this as long as hospitals were dealing with it in the right way,” says Blunt. “You had two missionaries come to Emory [University], they were there, they were cured. I didn’t see a single comment by any American saying we’re concerned that this isn’t being handled correctly.”

The Ebola situation has amplified the criticism some have leveled at Republicans, saying they are refusing to confirm President Obama’s nominee for Surgeon General, Dr. Vivek Murphy. They are accused at holding it up at the direction of the NRA, who doesn’t like that Murphy sees gun violence as a public health issue.

Blunt says a different kind of politics is behind the delay in that confirmation vote.

“Until this came up, frankly, I’ve heard very little discussion about the Surgeon General. I’m hearing now that the Attorney General nomination won’t happen until after the election. We keep putting everything off until after the election and that’s one of the reasons that things don’t work.”

Blunt thinks Americans see this as the latest in a series of situations for which government response hasn’t been what it should be.

“If this was one incidence where people thought the government wasn’t doing what the government was supposed to do, it would be much less of a reaction than we see now where there’s this long list of the government being one step behind whether its the border, the IRS, the Secret Service,” says Blunt. “Now this health concern is more real than it would be if there wasn’t a sense that the government is just not being managed in a way that people would want it to be managed.”

Missouri health lab can now do preliminary Ebola tests (VIDEO)

Missouri now has a lab to conduct preliminary tests for the Ebola virus.

The State Public Health Laboratory in Jefferson City has been designated an Ebola Virus Disease testing lab in the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention’s Laboratory Response Network. Preliminary testing of samples for Ebola can now be done at that state lab before being sent to the CDC lab in Atlanta for confirmation testing.

Governor Jay Nixon (D) announced the designation Friday and stressed that there are no cases of Ebola in Missouri. He says he asked the Director of the Department of Health and Senior Service to apply for the designation earlier this month, and confirmation came on Thursday.

Nixon is also releasing $3.3-million in the state budget that he had withheld, for local public health agencies.

Missouri hospitals say they’re ready for emergency (AUDIO)

Missouri hospital leaders have been holding their annual emergency preparedness confercnce this week. Emergency preparedness by hospitals is in the spotlight because of Ebola cases that are being treated in Ameircan hospitals. Missouri has not had any Ebola cases, but a spokesman for the state’s hospitals says they’re ready to handle any emergency.

The Missouri Hospital Association says emergency preparedness has been an action item for hospitals since the 2001 terrorist attacks. Association Vice President Dave Dillon says the annual get-togethers keep the preparedness fresh. “That is how you improve quality across the board,” he says.

Dillon says hospitals have a lot of experience dealing with emergencies. As he puts it, “Every day is an emergency in a hosital in one way or another.”

He says hospitals have plans in place and people who can affect outcomes in emergencies have been trained to operate the systems needed to respond to emergencies, whether it’s a natural disaster such as a tornado, or a disease outbreak such as the flu or even Ebola.

AUDIO: Dillon interview with Missourinet’s Bob Priddy 11:04

False Ebola claim in Cole County helped officials prepare (AUDIO)

Jefferson City police are investigating a false claim made by an individual who said that an ill person in their household had recently traveled to West Africa and had Ebola-like symptoms. As a result, Cole County and Jefferson City health officials activated their incident plan. The false claim was made to St. Mary’s Hospital.

photo: Kyle Loethen

Cole County’s Campbell answers questions Thursday’s press conference.

The Jefferson City Police Department says it has a suspect and may follow up with legal action.

In a follow-up press conference, Cole County Public Health Director Kristi Campbell says the false report had a positive result.

The health department issued this public statement.

Officials assured: “This incident gave responders…an opportunity to exercise our incident plan and prepare for a response. All aspects of a potential response were discussed; from transporting an ill person and care of the patient, contact tracing and decontamination of the affected household and vehicle. We will take what we learned today and continue to improve our plan and enhance our response.”

AUDIO: Listen to Q and A at Thursday’s press conference (8:52)



Same sex couples to get state benefits in Missouri (AUDIO)

Spouses of some same-sex Missouri couples will be able to get state health insurance and get survivor benefits from the state retirement system because of a Kansas City circuit judge’s ruling a week ago that clears the way for state government to recognize the marriages of same-sex Missouri couples married in states that recognize same sex marriages as legal.

Communications Director Mia Platz with the Consolidated Healthcare Plan that covers state employees says the valid marriage license is all that’s needed for same-sex spouse coverage.  But same-sex marriage licenses issued in Missouri are not considered valid because the state constitution defined marriage as taking place between a man and a woman.

MOSERS, the Missouri State Employees Retirement System, will allow qualified employees who retire now to add their spouses for survivor benefits. But Executive Director Gary Findlay says the coverage won’t apply to any of the couples married in St. Louis who are state workers. for the same reason cited by Platz.

The retirement system is not yet allowing already-retired same-sex couples to sign up for survivor benefits.  Findlay says the program has lawyers considering the legality of retroactivity.

AUDIO: Platz interview 7:42

AUDIO: Findlay interview 6:52