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American College of Physicians Expresses Concern About Mandatory Quarantines of Clinicians Involved in Care of Ebola Patients
Robert M. Centor, MD, FACP
Chair, Board of Regents, American College of Physicians (ACP)
October 27, 2014
The American College of Physicians is strongly concerned about the approach being taken by some state health departments to impose strict, mandatory quarantines for all physicians, nurses, and other health professionals returning from West Africa, regardless of whether they are showing symptoms of Ebola virus infection. ACP agrees that physicians and other health professionals must take the necessary precautions to ensure the safety of others and prevent the spread of infection. However, the College maintains that mandatory quarantines for asymptomatic physicians, nurses and other clinicians, who have been involved in the treatment of Ebola patients, whether in the United States or abroad, are not supported by accepted evidence on the most effective means to control spread of this infectious disease. Instead, such mandatory quarantines may do more harm than good by creating additional barriers to effective treatment of patients with Ebola and impede global efforts to contain and ultimately prevent further spread of the disease.
The College applauds the bravery of physicians, nurses and other health care professionals who have provided crucial medical care, comfort, and consolation to those suffering from the Ebola virus in West Africa. These heroic health care professionals have chosen to take on an incredible risk to provide relief to patients suffering from this horrendous virus. We applaud their work and wish them a safe return to their families. These health care professionals should not be penalized for their efforts, but treated with respect and dignity upon their return to the United States. Governments must not mandate non-evidence-based measures that impose unnecessary restrictions and intrusions on the personal freedom and dignity of physicians, nurses and other health professionals involved in treating patients with Ebola; rather, they should promote infection control measures that have been shown to be both highly effective in limiting spread of the diseases, while being the least restrictive possible.
ACP is concerned that mandatory quarantines, such as those announced by the states of New York, New Jersey, Illinois, and Florida, will discourage physicians and other health professionals from offering their assistance to help care for vulnerable patients in West Africa. When thousands of people in West African countries are suffering from this terrible virus, and when there are not enough clinicians available to take care of them, the last thing governments should do is to impose additional barriers to health care professionals who are willing to safely provide the care that is so desperately needed. Mandatory quarantines threaten to stigmatize health professionals working in West Africa and potentially exacerbate existing health professional shortages in the region by discouraging clinicians from traveling to the affected regions, and by doing so, may contribute to more preventable deaths and undermine global efforts to stop the spread of the disease.
ACP calls on health departments to act with constraint and promote the least restrictive measures on clinicians treating Ebola patients as supported by scientific evidence to control the spread of Ebola, reflecting recommendations from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, Doctors Without Borders, professional associations, and other experts on the most effective infection control recommendations for health professionals involved in care of patients with Ebola. By acting with prudence and restraint, government agencies can help ensure that our nation's physicians and health care professionals can continue to meet the highest standards of professionalism by providing needed care to patients suffering from Ebola, both here in the United States and abroad.
About the American College of Physicians
The American College of Physicians is the largest medical specialty organization and the second-largest physician group in the United States. ACP members include 141,000 internal medicine physicians (internists), related subspecialists, and medical students. Internal medicine physicians are specialists who apply scientific knowledge and clinical expertise to the diagnosis, treatment, and compassionate care of adults across the spectrum from health to complex illness. Follow ACP on Twitter and Facebook.