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Letter: Public Health Service should manage Ebola

Public Health Service should manage Ebola

The Oct. 18 News editorial “Frighteningly deficient” spotted the issue in its first paragraph. Yes, the White House response has been near comatose. No, we don’t know what we’re doing. The president’s newly appointed “Ebola czar” should be the surgeon general of the United States, rather than a rich political hack/friend of President Obama.

We have a uniformed U.S. Public Health Service Commissioned Corps. Years ago, before it was neutered, the PHS routinely surveyed arrivals at Ellis Island, staffed our Marine hospitals and the federal leprosarium, served with the armed forces during war, and provided health care to the Coast Guard, merchant mariners, federal prisoners, etc. Some of those missions still exist.

What we have today is a mammoth, research-based federal health bureaucracy at NIH/CDC. The desk jockeys in Bethesda are not fooling anybody. They can’t prevent Ebola. But this government can control it if it has the political will. Corps personnel should be redeployed at ports of entry with other Homeland Security staff. Quarantine should be understood as a basic condition of lawful entry/re-entry. Treatment should be provided in federal facilities run by PHS personnel. Requesting an “invitation” to act is about as nutsy as asking the Texas governor for permission to secure our U.S. border there. Break out the yellow flags, if necessary, and get to work!

Mike Helbig

North Tonawanda