Congrats to AHCA’s Liz Dudek and all, but about her preparing the state for Ebola…

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OK, so we all understand the revolving door of a second-term president/governor/mayor. Secretaries and agency heads come and go and it is frankly man-bites-dog when a long-timer actually doesn’t leave an administration.

That is why we tip our hat to Agency for Health Care Administration Secretary Liz Dudek for sticking it out for a few more years in the Scott administration. Good for you, Madam Secretary.

And good call, Governor Scott.

However, someone in the Executive Office of the Governor chose these words when praising Dudek’s work thus far, “She has also done an outstanding job making sure our hospitals are prepared to respond to any potential case of Ebola.”

Hmmm.

Let’s first be clear about one thing. AHCA is a big agency with a broad array of responsibilities and duties. There are probably a hundred things you can say in high regard for Secretary Dudek’s work, but I am not sure Ebola preparedness – especially in our state’s hospitals – is one of those.

Last week, the Tampa Bay Times reported, “No Florida hospitals designated Ebola treatment centers.” And while we should be thankful that no cases of the deadly virus have been reported in the Sunshine State, we really shouldn’t go around trumpeting how awesomely prepared our hospitals are when the CDC says that exactly zero are designated as “Ebola treatment centers.”

Federal “designation,” however, does not take in account preparedness of hospitals statewide, says AHCA spokesperson Shelisha Coleman, only that a certain hospital is the destination for treatment.

“Just because Florida doesn’t have designated Ebola treatment facilities,” she said, “doesn’t mean our hospitals aren’t prepared to handle an Ebola case.”

Coleman pointed out Florida’s Ebola preparation efforts so far, which include AHCA coordination with DOH to make sure all hospitals had trained staff, protective gear, and had conducted an Ebola preparedness exercise.  The agency reaches out to hospitals and other health care facilities, associations and Medicaid health plans as necessary. AHCA led the coordination of infection protocols, as well as the steps for reporting suspected Ebola cases. 

Secretary Dudek personally participated in every conference call concerning Ebola, and regularly briefs Scott on the state’s efforts for Ebola preparedness, joined by Surgeon General and Director Bryan Koon. She also recently visited St. Joseph’s hospital in Tampa for a tour of designated area treatment and discussed protocols.

Regardless, at the time, it seemed an odd compliment that needed clarification. 

Peter Schorsch is the President of Extensive Enterprises and is the publisher of some of Florida’s most influential new media websites, including SaintPetersBlog.com, FloridaPolitics.com, ContextFlorida.com, and Sunburn, the morning read of what’s hot in Florida politics. SaintPetersBlog has for three years running been ranked by the Washington Post as the best state-based blog in Florida. In addition to his publishing efforts, Peter is a political consultant to several of the state’s largest governmental affairs and public relations firms. Peter lives in St. Petersburg with his wife, Michelle, and their daughter, Ella.