Senator Lamar Alexander on Friday released the following statement about the president’s appointment of Ron Klain to serve as coordinator of the administration’s Ebola response:
“The president already has too many White House staff 'czars' who are not accountable to Congress. I urged the president two weeks ago to designate immediately an individual to coordinate a more urgent Ebola response.
"I had in mind a cabinet-level official with the skills of a four-star general or admiral who had a broad public health background and would be accountable to Congress.
That kind of action would give Americans confidence about our government's response to Ebola."
At a roundtable at Methodist University Hospital with state and local health officials and medical experts, Senator Alexander said, “Health care workers here in Tennessee and across the nation need to have every bit of knowledge available and every protective measure known to be able to protect themselves in case they must treat a patient with Ebola.”
He continued, “We have learned from these most recent infections in Dallas that we cannot be too careful and that we need to be more prepared. We’ve been told that information and protocols on how health providers should deal with Ebola have been shared by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention and others, but is that information getting down the line to nurses and doctors in the emergency room or urgent care clinics?”
Senator Alexander, the senior Republican on the Senate health committee, hosted the roundtable to discuss and highlight the important work happening in the Shelby County area that is critical to our country’s Ebola response and overall preparedness. He also asked about the work the Shelby County Health Department is doing to prepare in the event of a suspected Ebola case in the Memphis area, including any practice runs, efforts to heighten awareness among local doctors and nurses, and plans in place to track potential contacts with an infected individual.
“From what we’ve seen in Dallas, we need to rapidly improve training and education for those of you on the front line fighting this disease,” Senator Alexander said.
Roundtable participants included Yvonne Madlock, director of Memphis and Shelby County Health Department; Dr. Jon McCullers, chief pediatrician at Le Bonheur Children’s Hospital and chief of pediatrics at the University of Tennessee Health Science Center; Dr. Karen Codjoe, Fayette County health officer; Mr. Kevin Morris, regional epidemiologist for the Tennessee Department of Health for West Tennessee; Dr. Reginald Coopwood, president and CEO of Regional One Health; Dr. Manoj Jain, infectious disease consultant at Baptist Memorial Health Care Corporation; Dr. Bryan Simmons, medical director for infection prevention at Methodist Le Bonheur Healthcare; and Pam Castleman, senior vice president and chief nursing officer of Regional One Health.
Senator Alexander also told the group that thorough preparation should extend beyond Ebola, saying, “The same types of things we need to do to stop Ebola apply to other infectious diseases like the enterovirus that is now in Tennessee. Enterovirus D68 has made hundreds of children around the United States very ill, and parents and families in Tennessee very worried.”
On Wednesday, Senator Alexander called for restricted travel from Ebola-infected West African countries to the United States, saying, “The most sensible way to prevent the spread of Ebola in the United States is to restrict travel to the U.S. from Liberia, Guinea, and Sierra Leone in West Africa to essential personnel, and to develop quarantine procedures for anyone arriving in the United States from those countries. These individuals should be monitored for symptoms for 21 days to make certain they are not infected with Ebola.”