Organizational Health: From Ellis Island to Ebola

Article was accessed through Kaiser Health News at

From Ellis Island to Ebola: Is Sacrificing a bit of comfort for public health such a great indignity? WSJ October 31, 2014 6:33pm posted

Opinion article by Peggy Noonan

This article, as the title indicates, makes a case for placing all healthcare workers under 21 day quarantine who have cared for a person with Ebola.  The author cites policy since immigration through Ellis Island of monitoring persons at high risk of contracting infectious disease; however, the case is made that policy should be overzealous, and not necessarily science based, in order to eliminate all risk of further exposing members of the public.  The Federal government is faulted for not communicating a policy which supports placing all healthcare workers who have cared for a person with Ebola under 21 day quarantine.

I believe this article and many other articles have pointed to unclear and untimely direction being provided regarding the care of healthcare workers.   This unclear communication reflects poorly on the US Centers for Disease Control (CDC). There have been numerous spokespersons and experts consulted regarding Ebola and an “Ebola Czar” has been appointed but it remains unclear who the “leadership team” is who has the authority and responsibility to of communicating guidelines for healthcare workers.  Lencioni (2014) stresses the importance of a cohesive leadership team in order to have a healthy organization.  Three characteristics of a healthy organization, as described by Lencioni, and appear to missing are

* Defining the leadership team: It is important that the team be small, collectively responsible with a common, well defined objective (Lencioni, p.26). From all appearances, there is not a well defined leadership team with the responsibility of providing guidelines for healthcare workers

*Building Trust: The leadership team must demonstrate vulnerability-based trust, trust amongst the team members which allows members to be transparent, ask for assistance and are complimentary of each others expertise and defer to members of their teams expertise (Lencioni, p. 27).

*And finally, and most pertinent, I believe in this particular case is that the team demonstrate the ability to “Master Conflict.”  Lencioni clearly states “conflict without trust, however, is politics, an attempt to manipulate others in order to win an argument regardless of the truth.” (Lencioni, p.38) I fear that the lack of clear guidelines regarding quarantines, has been lost in politics which results from the lack of vulnerability- based trust among a cohesive leadership team which has the responsibility to communicate clearly guidelines for protecting healthcare workers who as a group  are responsible for protecting the public.


Lencioni, P., (2012) The advantage: why organizational health trumps everything else in business. San Francisco, California: Jossey-Bass



About Eve H Byrd MSN/MPH

NHWSON DNP student
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