North Shore LIJ to Build Biocontainment Unit for Infectious Diseases

long island hospitals
Photo credit: North Shore LIJ

While public anxiety over the Ebola virus in the US has subsided over the past week, the continued threat that it and other infectious diseases pose has convinced North Shore LIJ officials that it’s time to develop a biological containment unit on Long Island.

The specialized unit would be housed in one of North Shore LIJ’s 16 hospitals, and would take at least 18 months to build, the hospital system announced Thursday. The health system has not yet decided which facility would hold the unit. There are only four hospitals in the US with similar specialized containment units—none in the Northeast.

“In light of the public’s anxiety about Ebola, it’s clear that we need to develop a more-permanent solution to meeting public health needs in the event of a major infectious disease outbreak in the future,” Michael Dowling, president and CEO of North Shore-LIJ, said in a press release.

To further highlight the need for North Shore LIJ to develop a biological containment unit, Dowling warned that several contagious diseases—including Ebola, SARS, MRSA and the H1N1 virus—“will always be with us.”

A rendering of what North Shore LIJ's bio-containment unit would look like.
A rendering of what North Shore LIJ’s bio-containment unit would look like.

North Shore LIJ spokesman Terry Lynam said the hospital estimates that the project would cost about $15 million. The biological containment unit would be modeled after the Nebraska Medicine Biocontainment Patient Care Unit and the Serious Communicable Disease Unit in Emory University Hospital in Atlanta. Emory has in recent weeks treated three patients with Ebola: a Dallas nurse and two missionary workers aiding doctors in Liberia.

North Shore LIJ’s Glen Cove hospital has also been designated by New York State as one of eight hospitals that would treat a potential Ebola patient. Stony Brook University Hospital was the other LI hospital to receive that designation. Both have created specialized isolation units to treat such victims.

“We have a responsibility to prepare and protect the communities we serve,” Dowling said.

North Shore LIJ said it has trained thousands of its employees how to properly don and remove personal protective equipment.