Local News

Ebola simulation part of training at Womack Army Medical Center

Posted October 17, 2014 3:22 p.m. EDT
Updated October 17, 2014 6:48 p.m. EDT

— Sim Man, a computerized dummy that can breathe, blink and bleed, isn’t feeling too well.

“I feel like I can die,” he says in his simulated voice.

That’s because Sim Man has a case of Ebola, and it’s up to a team at Womack Army Medical Center at Fort Bragg to save his life without getting infected.

“We are ready to take care of patients safely,” said Col. Kenneth Shaw, head of the hospital’s Ebola Response Team, who led staffers through a recent simulation exercise. “Our staff is trained and trained well, and we’re going to continue to improve that training over time.”

Thousands of U.S. soldiers, including 120 from Fort Bragg, are scheduled to head to Africa to support efforts to stop the spread of the deadly virus. So, simulation training is critical.

During the drill, staffers practiced putting on protective gear using the buddy system. It was done step by step and by the book.

“Anytime you’re under stress, it’s easy to forget crucial steps to protect yourself,” Shaw said. “It’s just important that you don’t miss any steps and leave yourself exposed.”

The gear came off with the same attention to detail.

“The most crucial step is actually taking it off because you’re dirty at that point, and if you touch something that has virus and then touch yourself, then you can contaminate yourself,” Shaw said.

Sim Man survived the drill, as did the staff, who said they hope the training saves lives if a case of Ebola ever walks through the doors at Womack.

Fort Bragg officials said Friday that says no soldier will return from “Operation United Assistance” in Africa without being cleared that they do not have Ebola.

Col. Ronald Stephens, Commander of Womack Army Medical Center, says if a soldier does developed Ebola symptoms, he or she will be isolated, the virus contained and the soldier will be transferred to one of the four civilian hospitals in the country capable of treating Ebola patients.