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The Federal Government’s response to the Ebola crisis has been chaotic, the Australian Medical Association (AMA) says.
AMA president Professor Brian Owler said the Government was keeping Australians in the dark about their plans and medical professionals wanted a coherent plan to tackle the crisis in West Africa and at home, in case Ebola spreads.
The Federal Health Department this week said that there were about 20 caseworkers trained to care for potential Ebola patients.
But Professor Owler said neither the AMA nor the chief health officer knew who they were or what sort of Ebola training they were being given.
“It’s not the AUSMAT (Australian Medical Assistance) teams that you would expect would be trained to do this work,” Professor Owler said.
“Who are these people? If anything is going to be irresponsible it would be a last-minute announcement about people who are ill-equipped or ill-trained to go and do this dangerous work”.
He has also called on the Government to announce what it is going to do to help tackle the “humanitarian crisis” overseas and what the plans are if a potentially infected person arrives in Australia.
And Professor Owler said he had “big questions” about mandatory quarantines at airports for people returning from affected areas, like those to be set up in the US.
He said the nurse in Cairns, who had quarantined herself after showing signs of fever, had followed the right procedures by avoiding contact with others and alerting authorities.
“People should be reassured that the risk of transmission of that infection is very, very, low, but obviously it is a concern,” he said.
Opposition Leader Bill Shorten also accused Prime Minister Tony Abbott of not doing “enough to deal with this crisis”.
“Logic dictates that you’re better off dealing with the outbreak of a deadly and serious contagion closer to the source than waiting until it comes to Australia or comes to Papua New Guinea,” he said.
While we drag our feet on this issue, while the Government continues to roll out the tired old excuses about why we can’t respond, unfortunately people are going to continue to dieAMA president Professor Brian Owler
“If you want to deal with a contagion and a disease which is deadly and spreads very rapidly, you’re better off dealing with it early.”
The Government has so far refused to send health workers to Africa, arguing that it would be unable to evacuate them if they became infected with the deadly virus.
The US and UK asked for assistance from Australia a month ago.
Prime Minister Tony Abbott acknowledged the requests, but insisted the security of “our people” was paramount to any final decision.
The British are sending 750 people to help in Sierra Leone, while the US has dispatched more than 3,000 to Liberia.
“While we drag our feet on this issue, while the Government continues to roll out the tired old excuses about why we can’t respond, unfortunately people are going to continue to die,” Professor Owler said.
“There’s $18 million… that we’ve provided to try and provide help to services like the Red Cross that are delivering services, delivering support on the ground in Africa,” Mr Dutton told John Laws on 2SM on October 8.
The Australian Red Cross has told Fact Check it has never received any money from the Federal Government specifically earmarked for its Ebola operations and relief effort in West Africa.
The verdict: The Red Cross has not received specific funding from the Federal Government to support its Ebola program in West Africa. The Federal Government has provided $2.5 million to four Australian NGOs: Caritas, Plan International, Save the Children and World Vision.
As Ellen Johnson Sirleaf says, ‘we all have a stake’. Put simply, Tony Abbott’s message of mean spirited disinterest and misguided self-protection is costing lives.
Surely, we can do ‒ and are ‒ better than that.
Tony Abbott, who was more than ready to send troops into dangerous zones in Ukraine and Iraq wants a no risk guarantee for “our people”, saying it would be
“… irresponsible of an Australian government to order Australian personnel into this very dangerous situation.”
Beyond the obvious hypocrisy, Abbott is either callous, ignorant, or just not up to the job.
What is needed is not just a token donation of money, but people on the ground.
Also needed is the provision of expert training and (even simple) equipment — including protective gear, spray bottles, chlorine and logistical support.
Tony Abbott has pledged a meager $18 million to assist West Africa.
This is puny when compared to the recent estimates of the current deployment in Iraq are expected to soar to $400 million dollars. It fades to insignificance when compared to the $1 billion spent to provide offshore detention this financial year.
In summary, Australia’s contribution to fighting Ebola is spectacularly insignificant.
Australia is once again a laggard in its global responsibility. As he has done with climate change inaction, Tony Abbott is failing Australians and failing the world.
Across the country conservatives from all walks of life donned black and lit candles today as 43 residents of Dallas, Texas were released from quarantine after showing no signs of Ebola three weeks after possible exposure to the deadly virus.
Health officials said that 43 of the 48 initial contacts of Ebola victim Thomas Eric Duncan are free to resume their lives after 21 days of isolation.
And while Dallas officials celebrated the milestone, they pleaded with the community not to stigmatize the people returning to their normal routines.
“There is zero risk that any of those people who have been marked off the list have Ebola,” Dallas County Judge Clay Jenkins said at a news conference. “They were in contact with the person who had Ebola and the time period for them to get Ebola has lapsed.
“They are people who need our compassion our respect and our love,” Jenkins added. “Treat them the way you would want your own family treated if you were in their place and they were in yours.”
Jenkins called the reintegration process a “defining moment” and urged Dallas residents to trust the science behind their recommendations.
“We have to believe in science,” Jenkins said. “That’s what separates us from other mammals.”
In response, Speaker of the House John Boehner called his own press conference and insisted that there was no real difference between Republicans and any other mammal that roams the planet living in fear of things it does not understand.
A tearful Boehner told journalists that “Many times I’ve tilted my head in confusion when I just could not comprehend certain concepts like gay marriage, climate change, or equal pay for women, and I’ve seen my dog do the very same thing when he hears a strange sound, so I really don’t know what Jenkins is talking about.”
Senator Lindsey Graham, who began self-flagellating on the steps of the Capitol when he heard the news, wholeheartedly agreed.
“Since when have we Republicans ever listened to scientists about anything? This whole Ebola thing is part of the Benghazi-ISIS-Obamacare conspiracy to kill every single American, and I won’t rest until the whole country is just as terrified as I am!”
Pundits from both Fox and CNN paused briefly during ISIS doomsday coverage long enough to remind America that although the Ebola crisis in Dallas appears to be contained for the time being, it could always defy the laws of physics and crop up all over the country at once, causing millions of deaths. Dr. Keith Ablow of Fox reminded viewers that of Ebola didn’t kill us all, a huge asteroid could wipe us out any minute anyway, so by far the best thing to do is to live in abject fear for the rest of our lives.
While there is no room for complacency, by pulling together and fighting side by side, the international community can beat this serious threat. Perhaps Ebola Virus Disease has taught us all a lesson.
The Russian Federation has been present fighting this pandemic at all levels. President Vladimir Putin has met the WHO Director-General Margaret Chan and has pledged full support. A medical team of Russian virologists, epidemiologists and bacteriologists is in the field in the Republic of Guinea, to date 19 million USD has been provided, alongside humanitarian aid. Russia is ready to send large numbers of doses of the anti-viral drug Triazavirin, which is effective in 70 to 90% of cases of infections with 15 strains of Influenza, including A H1N1 (Swine Flu) and H5N1 (Avian flu), at any stage of the infection.
Russia is also working on a vaccine and is ready to begin trials on primates. After this the human trials will begin and it may be ready for massive operations by Summer 2015.
Australia is prepared to risk the lives of Defence personnel by sending them to face danger and uncertainty in the Middle East, where the motivation is essentially border protection rather than compassion. Aside from any deaths or injuries, many members of the Defence forces will return to Australia from the Middle East suffering post-traumatic stress disorder and place a strain on mental health services for decades to come.
Australia – already one of the richest nations on earth financially – even richer. But when asked to reach out to people in need in other parts of the world, the Government is prepared to impose extra layers of red tape.Other nations and non government organisations apply Australia’s ‘open for business’ mindset to humanitarian emergencies. For example the Jesuit Refugee Service emphasises flexibility and rapid response in the way that it responds to international emergencies. President Obama has acted quick to dispatch 3000 military personnel to West Africa. They will train as many as 500 health care workers a week, erect 17 heath care facilities in Liberia of 100 beds each, and much more. For its part, Australia is putting red tape in place to stop skilled individual volunteers who are willing and able to travel to West Africa.
Find the three people!
“Obviously a degree of paranoia and sensationalism has colored the Ebola story since long before this week. But this week’s developments provided conservatives the psychological ammunition they needed to justify using the specter of a major Ebola outbreak as an election-year base-mobilization strategy.”
AMA accuses government of having its ‘head in the sand’ but PM says other countries have yet to commit to assist in evacuations of Australians
The AMA called on the Australian government to step in and provide assistance, saying the problem must be tackled at the source to ensure it did not spread.
Owler said he understood the government’s reluctance to send people into harm’s way and he was not calling for people to be deployed against their will, but some were willing to “do this dangerous work”.
“Unless we respond and control this with a global effort, unfortunately, the cases are going to spiral out of control,” he said.
Owler also called on Australia to review its preparedness to deal with cases here, after the second case in Texas raised the prospect that procedures and protocols had failed.
He said he was surprised that the government had not convened a meeting of experts to consider the Australia’s domestic and international response.
Director of the Centers For Disease Control in Atlanta Dr. Tom Frieden advised anyone who was thinking of contracting Ebola to do so “just about anywhere other than Dallas.”
Dr. Frieden addressed the press while on a lunch break at a Mexican restaurant on Buford Highway.
“I would like to strongly advise those who are considering exposing themselves to blood, feces, or any bodily fluid from an Ebola patient to do so in Atlanta or in another major city that has competent medical personnel,” said Frieden. “If I were thinking of contracting the disease I would definitely steer clear of Texas in general and Dallas in particular.”
When asked why he was issuing the warning, Dr. Frieden slammed a bean burrito down his gullet and replied, “Look, those idiots in Dallas were the ones who let that dude run around the city unchecked for days before he was hospitalized. They also don’t seem to be able to follow simple protocol or safety measures. They are currently 0-1 when it comes to fighting the virus, and we here in Atlanta are so far 2-0 on the season. Who would you rather have treating you?”
Dr. Frieden was also asked about Bill O’Reilly’s demand that he should resign in disgrace because of the current panic over Ebola’s appearance in the U.S.
“That pompous cretin represents the very people who cut our funding almost 50% and then he has the balls to turn around and criticize us for something that, given the anemic response to the outbreak, was inevitable. He is the very definition of a horse’s ass. Can you imagine what it would be like to work for that asshole? I feel sorry for the bastards who have to tolerate him on a daily basis. I’d rather be exposed to smallpox.”
Dr. Frieden went on to say that he “would resign just as soon as O’Reilly receives a degree in epidemiology”, which given the Fox News pundit’s low IQ, would be sometime shortly after hell freezes over.
That a nation of 11 million people, with a GDP of $6,051 per capita, is leading the effort says much of the international response. Only in August, after two US missionaries caught the disease while working in Liberia and were flown to Atlanta, did the mushrooming crisis come into clear focus for many in the west. It was a little like the beheading of an American in the Middle East that that the war with ISIL took on sharp focus.
“Suddenly we could put a face and a name to these patients, something that I had not felt before. To top it all, an experimental drug was found and administered in record time,” explained the Lisbon-based artist. “I started thinking on how I could depict what I perceived to be a deep imbalance between the reporting on the deaths of hundreds of African patients and the personal tragedy of just two westerners.” The fact that thousands of deaths in Africa are treated as a statistic, and that one or two patients inside our borders are reported in all their individual pain, should be cause for reflection.”
“We may get a few isolated cases [in the west] but we’re not going to get an epidemic. We need more focus on west Africa where the real problem is.”The WHO estimates Sierra Leone alone needs around 10,000 health workers. Médecins sans Frontières, the international medical aid charity which has led efforts from the beginning, has about 250 staff on the ground in the affected countries. The second-largest government brigade is from the African Union, which is dispatching about 100 health workers.
It’s not the first time Cuba has played an outsized role in a major disaster. Its government may be beset by allegations of human rights abuse, but its contribution to relief brigades is unrivalled: currently, some 50,000 Cuban-trained health workers are spread over 66 countries. Cuba provided the largest medical contingent after the Haiti earthquake disaster in 2010, providing care to almost 40% of the victims. And while some 400 US doctors volunteered in the aftermath of that quake, fewer than 10 had registered for the IMC’s Ebola effort, the organisation said.
In August 1960, Che Guevara, a former doctor, dreamed of a world in which every medic would “[utilise] the technical knowledge of his profession in the service of the revolution and the people”. Thus began a history of service in some the world’s poorest and most forgotten states.
Ties deepened in the 1970s as Africa’s newly independent nations flirted with socialism, and aligned themselves with the communist state who opposed their former colonial rulers. Teachers, doctors and soldiers from Cuba poured into 17 African countries. Having set the exampleHelp now will soon be coming from places other than Cuba. The US will pour in $400m, plans to build at least a dozen 100-bed field hospitals using some 4,000 troops, and has deployed 65 health officials to Liberia. Japan, the world’s fourth-richest nation, has pledged $40m and India $13m. China has chipped in around $5m, as well as a Chinese-built and staffed mobile clinic in Sierra Leone.
But even if efforts to roughly double the current bed capacity of about 1,000 in Liberia, Guinea and Sierra Leone succeed, these facilities will still lack the health personnel needed to staff them. In part, slow staff recruitment is down to the high number of medics who have already been infected, hovering around 300 so far.
“A lot of health workers died in the beginning and that obviously had an impact on recruitment. But the rates have fallen, and what that shows is that health workers can learn, with the correct training in infection control.”
And he pointed out that there would be a silver lining, of sorts, as the disease marched on. “One way to see a positive side is that it means there are more survivors with immunity. They can then be very, very valuable in going back to their communities to educate others and help, without that risk of falling sick again.”