EDITORIAL: Fighting the Ebola outbreak

admin | 杭州桑拿
4 Dec 2018

THE federal government’s decision to fund a 100-bed medical centre in epidemic-stricken Sierra Leone has been cautiously welcomed in most quarters.

The government has announced it will pay an independent contractor about $20million to run the field hospital, but exactly how the hospital will be staffed remains a little unclear.

It is understood the government has finally been able to win agreement from a British organisation to treat any Australians who contract the feared Ebola virus. That removes one obstacle to more Australian volunteers offering their help and also clears the way for the government to provide more direct assistance if the opportunity arises and the need becomes apparent.

The proposed hospital will be run by the private Aspen Medical group and will employ about 240 staff, some of whom are likely to be Australian.

The government has stopped short, however, of directly equipping any medical teams, preferring to operate at arm’s distance through the contractor.

Meanwhile, the situation in the affected regions remains fluid.

In Liberia, for example, the number of new cases is reported to have dramatically declined, with some of the recently built treatment centres having few if any patients. Some people hope this means the epidemic in that country may be waning, but others fear it may be just another temporary lull, like some others before.

By contrast, in Sierra Leone, areas previously free from the disease have now been struck, with dozens of new cases and many deaths.

Since the outbreak began late last year, the virus is known to have infected more than 13,000 people in eight countries, killing about 5000.

The Australian government had already committed about $18million to the fight against Ebola. It has now added the $20million hospital funding deal and another $4million to help Australians already in Africa with international aid agencies, and to help Asia Pacific neighbours such as East Timor and Papua New Guinea to train health professionals to deal with any possible cases of the disease that might appear on their shores.

That’s a measured response, not miserly but cautious and targeted. As such, most Australians would agree with its general thrust.

A well-equipped field hospital operating under the proper protocols for this dangerous disease will almost certainly do more good than would have been achieved by sending armed services personnel into the danger area without having a clearly defined mission.

Much will depend on the course of the epidemic from here on. If the situation worsens the government might well be expected to boost funding still further or provide more direct assistance.

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