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13 WTHR Indianapolis | Indianapolis Local News & Weather

How a local medical team prepares for potential coronavirus outbreak

A team of 50 medical professionals have volunteered to handle patients if there was a potential coronavirus outbreak.

INDIANAPOLIS (WTHR) — Mary Kay Foster is hoping for the best.

But when it comes to preparing for something like the coronavirus, it's her job to be prepared for the worst.

Protective wear in case of an outbreak. (WTHR/Dustin Grove)

Foster is in charge of IU Health's Special Pathogens Unit, created in 2014 amid concerns about the Ebola virus.

Working with Indianapolis EMS and other area hospitals, they make up a team of 50 medical professionals.

They're all volunteers who would work together to transfer and treat highly infectious patients without contaminating anyone else.

"We're thinking coronavirus, Ebola ... a small pox or something like that," she said.

Earlier this month, the team performed a drill that involved picking up a pretend patient at Eskanazi Hospital and moving him to IU Health Methodist and the Special Pathogens Unit.

Members worked in teams to put on specialized suits and powered respirators before moving the patient.

"(We) haven't been open in four and a half years, but I'm ready," said Foster. "And that's what these drills do with our partners is keeps us ready. Keeps us sharp and ready to go."

Especially as things change.

"New information comes out. New equipment. This is just a great opportunity to practice it," she said. "The hospitals are all digging in and getting their plans ready and preparing. Our county health departments, our state health department. Indiana is well-prepared. They're really on top of it."

The team meets every few months and performs at least two drills per year.