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Nurses urge world leaders to help West Africa

Photo: Ebola in West Africa. Pic: Australian Red Cross
Liberian health workers have resorted to using plastic bags at times to protect themselves against the deadly Ebola virus.

Speaking via video link as part of the Queensland Nurses’ Union’s (QNU) international G20 nursing conference in Brisbane, a Liberian nurse and an ambulance officer today revealed health workers are struggling to safeguard themselves and combat the virus.

“We need the world’s help now to stop the spread of Ebola,’’ nurse Laurene Wisseh said.

“At the moment we are sharing equipment, sometimes reusing disposable gloves and in the worst case scenario using plastic bags to protect against Ebola. 

“In the last 24 hours, we have responded to seven cases and saw a mother and her six children aged between one and 13 years infected with Ebola.’’

The health workers urged world leaders attending the G20 summit to urgently send more health professionals, personal protective equipment and logistical support to West Africa.

Ambulance officer Gorden Kamara said Liberia had one doctor per 14,000 patients.

“To fight Ebola virus disease effectively in Liberia, we need more trained doctors, nurses, hygienists, ambulances, drivers, assorted antibiotics, oral rehydration salts, vitamins and anti-malarial drugs,’’ he said.

“We need a well organised and trained anti-Ebola response hub in each of the 15 political subdivision of Liberia equipped with Ebola Treatment Unit, warehouses stocked with personal protection equipment and supplies for rapid respond to an Ebola outbreak in any part of Liberia.

“I am appealing to the President Obama and Prime Minister Abbott and other world leaders to not relent in providing Liberia all the help we need to combat this virus.”

QNU secretary Beth Mohle said West African health workers are putting their lives on the line to halt the spread of Ebola.

“We applaud recent efforts to establish additional facilities in West Africa but must stress local health workers continue to die at a rapid rate because they don’t have protective equipment or logistical support to transport these supplies.”

The president of the National Association of Nigerian Nurses and Midwives, Abdrafiu Alani Adeniji, attended the conference with QNU, New South Wales Nurses and Midwives’ Association (NSWNMA) and Australian Nursing and Midwifery Federation (ANMF) members.

The co-president of American-based National Nurses’ United, Deborah Burger, president of the Canadian Federation of Nurses’ Unions, Linda Silas, and Daniel Bertossa from France-based Public Sector International also attended.

The conference coincided with a national day of action for American nurses, with about 100,000 nurses expected to protest and strike while calling for improved protection for health workers treating suspected Ebola patients.

Ms Burger said all nurses and frontline care providers in US hospitals should have optimal protective equipment and training.

“The infection of two registered nurses in Dallas shows that US hospitals are not prepared and American nurses are determined to make our voices heard.”

It’s a concern that nurses across the world share, Ms Burger said.

Ebola has claimed the lives of more than 5000 people this year, including an estimated 233 health workers.

The World Health Organisation reports a nurse working at a privately-run clinic in Bamako, the capital city of Mali, became the country’s second fatal case of Ebola earlier this week.


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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