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Nurses call on government to boost Ebola response

Photo: Credit: International Federation of Red Cross
There’s growing calls for Australia to send a contingent of nurses, doctors and other health workers as part of a coordinated international response to the Ebola epidemic sweeping East Africa.

As the World Health Organisation (WHO) estimates at least 2630 people have died in the outbreak, which has spread throughout Sierra Leone, Guinea and Liberia and also reached Nigeria and Senegal, the Australian Nursing and Midwifery Federation (ANMF) has called on the government to provide more support to the international fight against the Ebola crisis.

ANMF federal secretary Lee Thomas labelled the epidemic “a humanitarian crisis of epic proportions”.

“As the disease continues to spread across countries throughout West Africa, we are greatly concerned that the lack of protective equipment means that nurses, doctors and other health care workers who are fighting on the frontline, are being exposed to this deadly disease,” she said in a statement.

“In addition to financial assistance, we are calling on the government to take direct action by committing trained personnel to a coordinated international, emergency response.

“This is what’s desperately needed to treat the victims of the disease, ensure the protection of health care workers on the ground and to stop the disease from spreading even further across West Africa.”

The Australian Medical Association (AMA) has called on the government to urgently coordinate the recruitment and deployment of volunteer doctors and other health professionals to West Africa, and to provide ongoing support, including protective and medical equipment and supplies.

Nurses and health professionals from Australia and New Zealand have been assisting on the Ebola frontline as part of the international Red Cross response.

There are now four Australian Red Cross aid workers, including nurses and other health professionals, working in West Africa while several more Australian health professionals are expected to join the Ebola response in the coming days.

Red Cross aid workers on the ground in West Africa wear full personal protection equipment (PPE) from overalls and goggles to two pairs of gloves and apron gumboots, and receive specialised training on arrival.

The Federal Government has announced it will provide an extra $7 million to support the international response to the Ebola outbreak but at this stage has no plans to send Australian health workers to the region.

Ms Thomas said large numbers of health care professionals with appropriate clinical skills are desperately needed to combat the disease.

“The Australian government must ensure that our nurses and doctors on the ground in West Africa are provided with protective clothing and equipment to ensure their health and safety, and they must guarantee the safe evacuation of nurses and doctors from the region if needed,” she said.

With health care workers reported to comprise about 10 per cent of the Ebola deaths, Ms Thomas urged Australian nurses wanting to provide assistance to be cautious.

“It is admirable that Australian nurses are joining in the international fight against the Ebola crisis and we are urging them to ensure they make arrangements through reputable aid agencies,” she said.

WHO figures show the deadly viral disease has infected at least 5357 people.


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Karen Keast

Karen Keast is a freelance health journalist who writes news and feature articles for HealthTimes.

Karen regularly writes for some of Australia’s leading health news websites and magazines.  In a media career spanning 20 years, Karen has worked as a senior journalist in newspapers and television. She has covered the grind of daily news and worked as a politics reporter at countless state and federal elections.

Since venturing into freelance writing five years ago, Karen has found her niche in writing about the health sector for editors, businesses and corporations.

Karen has interviewed the heads of peak health organisations in Australia and overseas, and written hundreds of news and feature articles covering the dedicated work of health professionals who tread the corridors of hospitals and health services, universities, aged care facilities and practices, day in and day out.

Follow Karen Keast on Twitter @stylemywords