GALVESTON — Hospital officials in Galveston are preparing to take a more active role in the state’s response to cases of Ebola.

The University of Texas Medical Branch agreed to accept medical waste from Dallas’ Presbyterian Hospital, the hospital where one person died after contracting the Ebola virus and two other nurses who treated him were infected, state health officials confirmed Thursday.

“UTMB has agreed to take waste from the hospital,” Stephanie Goodman, a spokeswoman for the Texas Health and Human Services Commission, said Thursday. “It seemed like a very logical choice, and they agreed to take it. They are very well equipped to deal with that.”

UTMB had scheduled a news conference on Thursday, but it was rescheduled for this morning.

Earlier in the day, university officials made clear that the medical branch was preparing to step up its involvement.

“UTMB is uniquely positioned to help Texas deal with the Ebola situation,” President David Callender said in a media release.

As proof of that, the university pointed to the safety record of the Galveston National Lab, a Level 4 biosafety facility where researchers study Ebola and other infectious diseases.

In the 10 years that the lab has operated, not one of its researchers has been infected, the university said.

The university also is home to the National Biocontainment Training Center — where scientists are trained to safely work in high-containment laboratories.

It was unclear whether any of the Dallas medical waste had already arrived in Galveston.

The university is not treating any patients with Ebola and has not been asked to accept any patients.

Amber Vinson, one of the two nurses infected in Dallas, was taken to Emory Hospital in Atlanta on Wednesday. The other nurse, Nina Pham, was to be taken to National Institutes of Health clinical center in Bethesda, Md., on Thursday evening.

However, should more cases appear, UTMB is equipped to handle them, Callender said.

“Should we have a patient suspected of having the virus, we are well prepared to provide quality care in a way that protects our employees and the community,” Callender said.

Ebola waste has been something of a political hot potato in recent days.

Early this week, state Rep. Joe Deshotel, D-Port Arthur, objected to plans for some types of waste to be brought to an incinerator in Port Arthur.

While items from the apartment of Thomas Eric Duncan, the original Dallas Ebola patient, were destroyed in Port Arthur last Friday, Deshotel said he opposed items from the hospital being brought to the same place.

“The medical waste from Presbyterian Hospital in Dallas most certainly will contain bodily fluids of the current Ebola patient; therefore I request that it not be transported to Jefferson County, but instead be incinerated in a medical facility licensed to dispose (of) medical waste,” Deshotel said.

Deshotel said he reached an agreement with Health and Human Services Commissioner Kyle Janek to have the medical waste brought to the medical branch in Galveston.

Also this week, a hazardous waste facility in Louisiana said it would not accept ash from incinerated Ebola waste after the state’s attorney general asked for a temporary restraining order to stop the waste from entering the state.

“There are too many unknowns at this point, and it is absurd to transport potentially hazardous Ebola waste across state lines,” Louisiana Attorney General Buddy Caldwell said in a statement Sunday.

Veolia North America, the company that incinerated the apartment waste, said the ash is decontaminated and put in containers with multiple layers of packaging. It does not contain the Ebola virus and is not a threat to public health.

Galveston’s elected officials said Friday that they were comfortable with Ebola waste coming to the island because of the expertise found at the medical branch.

“It has become obvious that people that are not experts, are not properly trained and are not equipped to deal with Ebola, shouldn’t be dealing with Ebola if it can be avoided,” State Rep. Craig Eiland, D-Galveston, said.

“The people at the Galveston National Lab are experts, are properly trained and have the equipment to safely and effectively destroy the waste, they have been doing it every day for about 10 years with all kinds of bad stuff, including Ebola.

“This is where it should go. If the people and equipment at UTMB and the Galveston National Lab can’t handle Ebola, God help us all.”

Contact reporter John Wayne Ferguson at 409-683-5226 or john.ferguson@galvnews.com.

(22) comments

Stevie Maradeo

Give me your tired, your poor,
Your huddled masses of Ebola

Miceal O'Laochdha

I hope we will be hearing promptly from Councilman McMorris and his colleagues who are so recently on record with their grave concerns about the health and safety of Island residents.

John McBride

UTMB is a horrible place to bring anything soiled with ebola. Last year they lost a few vials of blood containing the plague from a secured lab. Guess what?!?! I happened to find them after buying a few medical freezers that came from their labs. I reported it to utmb and they sent a detective and a tech to come decon the freezers and take the vials back with them. Never heard anything after that even though i was guaranteed they would contact me after the samples were tested. My family and i were cleaning the freezers for resale before i noticed the vials in the back corner of 3 of them. They need to stick to gunshot victims and delivering babies!

Staff
Michael Smith

Reporter John Wayne Ferguson interviewed the author of this post Thursday and today. While the author still claims he found three vials of something in a surplus freezer, he said he didn't know what was in the vials or that the vials contained plague or where the vials came from.


Robert Badger

So you are implying that its okay and acceptable for a medical hospital to just leave medical wastes unaccounted for if they do not contain the plague. You would be prosecuted under my proposed 'Criminal S*up*d' law.

rah

TO : Jegsservices

According to the reporter you spoke with you stated, "...While the author still claims he found three vials of something in a surplus freezer, he said he didn't know what was in the vials or that the vials contained plague or where the vials came from..." The reporter is taking what came out of your mouth.

Now, why have you not come back and requested that your post be edited to reflected the truth? If you think that UTMB is good for babies and gunshot wounds I do hope you go elsewhere to seek your treatment.

UTMB does do a lot of good things. They are not perfect and NEITHER is any other hospital in the United States.

Tom Jones

UTMB should be audited before anything containing EBOLA is brought to the facility. Part of their incinerator blew up not too long ago. UTMB did not inform the public. Somebody needs to investigate this facilities capabilities before hand. Believe me they are putting our communities health in danger to make a buck.

sharon free

I really hope they know what they're doing. This worries me.

Rick Lines

Mr Duncan died over a week ago. Can Ebola survive for that long outside a host?

n2thesea

I find this information very disturbing. Are they just driving it down I-45 from Dallas?

Marc Edelman

Jeggser

Marc Edelman

Jegservices, I was feeling okay about it until I read your comment. TJ sounds like a good story to right about.

John Merritt

I can hear Obama - an island in Texas? Perfect!!!

Debra Criss

Obama had ZERO to do with the decision to bring the waste to Galveston. The decision was made by Galveston native and physician Dr. Kyle Janek, Perry appointee after Beaumont refused.

TikiOwl

That won't stop the RWNJ's. If it isn't on Faux or Rush they don't believe it.

Kim Etheridge

Get your facts straight, radovan. Beaumont never had anything to do with this. The state of Louisiana refused the hazardous waste.

Debra Criss

think you may want to read the articles again. Beaumont'sJoe Deshotel (state rep) and Janek had a discussion about the Beaumont facility. True, Louisiana also refused.

Don Ciaccio

No, In this case we were sold down the river by one of our own - Kyle Janek!

janet lyons

I wonder what this news will do for tourism? It's one thing to have controlled specimens in a lab (where some were lost last year by the way) it's another to think of Ebola waste being driven over the Causeway and down Broadway.

janet lyons

Texas Bio-Lab Loses Deadly Virus
Published by The West Wire at March 25, 2014
University of Texas Medical Branch (UTMB) President David L. Callender says that a vial holding a small portion of the South American virus Guanarito has gone missing.

The exotic strain, first discovered in Venezuela in the 1980s, can cause infected humans to contract a rare hemorrhagic fever that, with symptoms such as high temperature, convulsions and hemorrhaging... The school has no idea where the vial went and says routine inspections last week left faculty scratching their head.
This is the same lab they want to send Ebola to???? Someone help me understand the logic in this.

Robert Badger

I propose a law to be passed at the ealiest moment: A law defining 'Criminally Stupid'. To be retroactive, and carry a sentence of life in a facility for the criminally insane.

The first to be prosecuted are all the people involved with bringing the 'super-bug' lab to Galveston, and ALL those presently proposing to make UTMB-Galveston the main handler of Ebola patients, and wastes.

Ron Geraci

Cecil the Cursing Cat on Ebola --

http://themintyplum.com/?p=2601

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