National Ambulance Service ‘prepared and ready’ for ebola outbreak

Date Published : October 11th, 2014    Published By : admin

The HSE has said the National Ambulance Service is ‘prepared and ready’ for an outbreak of the ebola virus here in Ireland, however, there is widespread concern among the Irish Medical Organisation and members of the Irish Nurses and Midwives Organisation as the HSE has yet to provide formal practical training and a clear plan of action in dealing with a patient suspected of contracting the Ebola virus.

The INMO have written to the HSE’s Chief Executive Officer Tony O’ Brien to demand what would be regarded as normal, standard practice as an employer, according to INMO’s industrial relations director Phil Ní Sheaghda. They have asked Mr. O’Brien to outline to them what contingency plans are in place, and whether personal protective clothing has been made available to acute hospitals and what alert systems and triage arrangements are in place for suspected cases.

The concerns were raised following the recent infection of Spanish nurse Teresa Romero Romas. INMO’s Phil Ní Sheaghda said it would be normal, standard practice for an employer to give a formal briefing, and the HSE should already have done that. “It is very important that nurses and midwives are provided with training and all necessary recommended protective clothing and equipment in the event that they are in a situation where a person presents with suspected ebola for care”

Britain prepares with national ebola emergency exercise
As Britain undertakes a nationwide one-day exercise today to test its preparedness for an outbreak of the deadly Ebola virus, there is increased concern among Irish Government opposition parties about Ireland’s response and preparation plans. Following a Cabinet briefing yesterday by Minister for Health Leo Varadkar, he stated that Ireland’s health system is well prepared in what he said was an unlikely event of an Ebola case while Chief Medical Officer Tony Holohan said “Ireland is well prepared to deal with the possibility of a case of Ebola, although the risk of that occurring is very low”.

Ireland’s national plans for dealing with ebola have existed since 2002. These plans were updated ten years later with a dry run being tested last year, in preparation for any possible outbreak of Ebola from West Africa. The HSE National Ambulance Service has plans ready for a garda escort for the transfer of any patient with suspected ebola to the 12-bed National Isolation Unit at the Mater Hospital in Dublin.

Garda Escort Ambulance


The Chief Medical Officer said these plans include information for all front line professionals working in ports, airports and hospitals, as well as arrangements for distribution of personal protective equipment to all front line staff. “The National Ambulance Service, the National Virus Reference Laboratory and the Environmental Health Officers also play a key part in the front line capacity to deal with Ebola. We have a well organised health system in Ireland and while the risk of a case of Ebola is very low, we are prepared, but not complacent to deal with it should one arise,” he said

Warning by Irish Medical Organisation
The Irish Medical Organisation however is warning that Government guidelines on how to safeguard Irish people during any ebola outbreak may be useless as they “assume a fully operating and functional” health service. The IMO is calling for an “urgent” meeting with the HSE, the doctors’ group said it is “not good enough to simply issue guidelines” when there are clear flaws in Irish defences.

A spokesperson said “Doctors have received guidelines: However, we have concerns guidelines assume a fully functional service, and this is simply not the case. We do not wish to be alarmist, but we must recognise doctors need to have the resources and structures to deal with any circumstances that may arise.”

Report By: Declan Keogh 11/10/14 15.20

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