BOISE, Idaho – For three days this week, Idaho health agencies and EMS teams joined clinics in national training exercises to move patients with highly infectious disease.

The exercises, which started Monday and ended Wednesday, involved, among other things, taking people acting as patients from health clinics to medical transport aircraft at the Boise Airport.

“Four role-playing patients were loaded onto a Kalitta Air 747 medical transport aircraft and flown to regional treatment centers in Spokane, Wash., and Los Angeles, Calif.,” according to the Idaho Department of Health and Welfare. “Idaho does not have the capability to treat patients with highly infectious diseases such as Ebola.”

Photo by Chris Smith, courtesy of Idaho Department of Health and Welfare

On Monday, role-playing patients with Ebola symptoms arrived at Treasure Valley healthcare facilities, the department said. The “patients” were cared for at local clinics before being taken to the airport.

“Saving lives during crises requires preparation and training,” said Robert Kadlec, M.D., HHS assistant secretary for Preparedness and Response. “A tremendous amount of coordination, synchronization, and skill is needed to move patients with highly infectious diseases safely."

The department says that participants will gather this Friday to assess the exercise, compare actions across the country, and share best practices for moving patients with highly infectious diseases.

“We have to protect the patients and the healthcare workers caring for those patients," Kadlec said. "This type of exercise helps ensure that everyone involved is ready for that level of complexity.”