Special Pathogens Program
Located at Providence Sacred Heart Medical Center and Children’s Hospital (PSHMC&CH) in Spokane, WA, the Special Pathogens Program is the Region 10 Emerging Special Pathogens Treatment Center committed to keeping our community safe. Providence participates in readiness efforts because our Mission is to care for everyone, especially those who are poor and vulnerable.
For resources developed by the Providence Special Pathogens Program visit the Providence Digital Commons.
The program maintains preparedness to care for patients with a high consequence infectious disease in the Special Pathogens Unit and functions as a resource for special pathogens preparedness throughout Region 10, including Washington, Idaho, Oregon, and Alaska, with training and education.
The Special Pathogens Program achieves these commitments by:
- Maintaining a state-of-the-art unit
- Training a multi-disciplinary team
- Operating a biosafety level 3 laboratory
- Training a specialized lab team
- Maintaining the capability to conduct research for special pathogens
- Coordinating and supporting Region 10 partners
Preparedness efforts include a robust training, education, and exercise program to maintain the expertise needed for this capability. This program includes working together with healthcare partners in drills and exercises to enhance regional collaboration and preparedness.
The Special Pathogens Program at PSHMC&CH is committed to keeping our communities safe by maintaining a constant state of readiness to care for adult and pediatric patients with high consequence infectious diseases. We look forward to furthering our region’s preparedness for special pathogens care by collaborating with our regional and national partners on best practices.
The Special Pathogens Unit (SPU) Team exists to support our community and Region 10, in preparedness and response efforts to the adverse health effects of public health emergencies related to special pathogens or high consequence infectious diseases.
This multi-disciplinary team consists of:
- Medical providers
- Respiratory therapists
- Environmental services
- Spiritual care personnel
- Other ancillary departments
These team members display expertise in critical care, pediatric care and the care of specialty populations including Neonatal Intensive Care Unit, Labor & Delivery, and Mother/Baby. Our dedicated laboratory team is trained in all levels of personal protective equipment (PPE) and procedures needed to handle specimens from patients that may have a high consequence infectious disease. All members of the Special Pathogens team focus on a collaborative model to promote safe care for patients in the SPU.
The SPU Team’s mission is to identify, isolate, diagnose, and provide specialized care to all patients with a suspected or confirmed special pathogen as safely as possible. These highly trained caregivers possess the subject matter expertise and training needed to provide excellent clinical care to patients while assuring the safety of the patient, community, and healthcare workers.
The Special Pathogens Unit (SPU) is a space developed for the care of a patient diagnosed with a high-consequence infectious disease including a novel respiratory virus or a viral hemorrhagic fever such as Ebola. The unit consists of 12 airborne infection isolation rooms capable of caring for respiratory patients and includes rooms designed to care for up to two Ebola patients. Located within the unit is a standalone laboratory that operates as a Biosafety Level 3.
Special Pathogens Unit Lab Test Menu:
- CBC with differential
- Blood chemistries
- Blood gas
- Respiratory Panel
- Blood Culture ID Panel
- Presumptive testing for Ebola, Marburg, and Bacillus anthracis
- Urine pregnancy
The unit has specialized air handling units, limited security access and is isolated from the rest of the hospital for safety. As part of our culture of safety, we employ features such as video/audio phones, maintain visual contact with caregivers inside the room through video cameras, windows, and communicate with radio headsets. The unit allows the Special Pathogens team to provide quality care with critical care capabilities. The meticulously planned unit ensures that the safety of our caregivers, patients, and community is our top priority.
Providence Sacred Heart Medical Center and Children’s Hospital (PSHMC&CH) is part of the Special Pathogens Research Network (SPRN). The SPRN is a national platform for the study of special pathogens and consists of members from the Regional Emerging Special Pathogens Treatment Center network and multiple federal partners. Having an established research infrastructure for special pathogens is essential for a timely response during an outbreak as it allows the care team to quickly onboard clinical trials for potential treatment of new pathogens.
PSHMC&CH participates in multiple national SPRN workgroups to coordinate and collaborate on research initiatives for special pathogens. This collaboration allows the sharing of best practices and the development of tools to assist in research processes for special pathogens. The Special Pathogens Program has a research coordinator dedicated to building our research capacity and capability for special pathogens, which includes educational resources for the bedside caregiver.
List of Conditions treated:
- Viral hemorrhagic fevers
- Ebola virus diseases (EVD)
- Lassa Fever
- Crimean Congo hemorrhagic fever
- Respiratory pathogens
- Middle Eastern respiratory syndrome (MERS)
- Severe acute respiratory syndrome (SARS)
- Influenza like illness with pandemic potential
- Emerging special pathogens
- Nipah virus infection
For publications from our Special Pathogens Team see the Providence Digital Commons.
Our Region 10 preparedness priorities supporting Alaska, Idaho, Oregon, and Washington are to build upon the National Emerging Special Pathogen Training and Education Center’s (NETEC) mission which is to be the gold standard for special pathogen preparedness. This is accomplished by being the center of excellence for special pathogen preparedness in Region 10. Our multi-disciplinary team is always ready to receive a special pathogen patient and works alongside our local and state healthcare partners to increase our regional capability and capacity for special pathogen preparedness. Our SPU team members lead and participate in NETEC workgroups and collaborate across the Regional Emerging Special Pathogen Treatment Center network along with international partners to share best practices within Region 10.
The purpose of our regional planning is to inform local, state, tribal, and federal governments, relevant agencies, organizations and other stakeholders of the interstate coordination plans, capabilities, and patient transport plans specific to emerging special pathogens in Region 10.
Our Region 10 preparedness priorities are developed to support:
- Frontline healthcare facilities
- Designated hospitals
- Local and state public health partners
- EMS transport agencies
- Healthcare coalitions
- Healthcare partners focused on special pathogens
Preparedness is a continuous cycle of Planning, Organizing, Training, Equipping, and Exercising. This process is followed by evaluation and taking corrective actions to improve an individual or organization's level of preparedness. Organizations can be anywhere on the continuum of preparedness for special pathogen care. Our goal is to meet organizations where they are to improve their level of preparedness and therefore our collective, regional level of special pathogen preparedness. For resources developed by the Providence Special Pathogens Program visit the Providence Digital Commons.
If you are in need of training, resources, or consultation support please fill out the form at the following link.
Agencies, like the Center for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), encouraged Providence to apply for the special designation because of our expertise, advanced health care capabilities, experienced teams, and existing partnerships with city, state, and local public health and safety agencies. Providence applied for and received the initial designation in 2015.
This depends on whether there are patients in our region requiring this high level of care. The last time the Special Pathogens Unit was activated was in 2020 when cruise ship patients with some of the first confirmed cases of 2019 novel coronavirus (2019-nCoV) in the U.S. received care. Thanks to our extensive training, we were able to safely care for those patients when little was known about the virus we now know as COVID-19.
Providence will receive notice of a potential patient and will work collaboratively with the Washington State Department of Health, Spokane Regional Health District, the referring hospital, and other agencies, to determine if the SPU at Providence Sacred Heart Medical Center and Children’s Hospital is the best location for the patient. Transfer will be coordinated in collaboration with federal, state and regional agencies. We regularly practice this type of coordination with agencies in full-scale exercises.
The special pathogens team has advanced training and participates in ongoing training and education, including regular exercises and drills. The unit has been designed to provide a safe environment for caregivers and patients, with features like negative air flow throughout, specially designed rooms for dressing in extremely protective personal protective equipment (PPE), and isolated storage areas. The Providence environmental services team follows best practices for cleaning and sterilization. We also have a special sterilizer designed to inactivate and compact hazardous waste, including Category A waste.
It is a collaborative decision made by health care authorities such as National Emerging Special Pathogen Training and Education Center (NETEC), local and state public health agencies, and the Special Pathogens Program Medical Director.
The number of patients with a special pathogen that we can treat at one time depends on the pathogen and how sick the patient is.
The unit is available for patient overflow if hospital capacity becomes an issue. The SPU may also be used to support training, education, and research.