Nurses union unimpressed with Federal Government’s Ebola response


A volunteer with the Red Cross Soceity of Guinea disinfects a hospital in Coukray, Guinea. Photo: Idrissa Soumaré
A volunteer with the Red Cross Soceity of Guinea disinfects a hospital in Coukray, Guinea. Photo: Idrissa Soumaré

The Queensland Nurses Union have expressed surprise at the nature of the Federal Government’s response to the Ebola crisis.

Federal Health Minister Peter Dutton announced yesterday a $24 million aid package to fund a 100 bed Ebola treatment facility in Sierra Leone through independent contractor ASPEN Medical.

Secretary of the Queensland Nurses Union Beth Mohle said the nature of the announcement came as a surprise to health care professionals who have been campaigning for greater federal response to the crisis.

“We have got about 350 nurses who have expressed an interest in going over and assisting in Africa, but now it’s the case that it’s a private organisation that’s going to be running the treatment centre,” Ms Mohle said.

Ms Mohle said the nurses union were concerned that the private industry model was not an appropriate response to a crisis of this scale.

“What they’re doing is they’re putting a private operator in there to run the field hospital,” she said.

“They’re exporting a privatised health industry to a health emergency, and that’s not the model we thought would be appropriate in these circumstances.”

Minister Dutton released a statement that the facility will be staffed mainly by local health care workers, supported by a contingent of international staff, including some Australian volunteers.

Prime Minister Tony Abbott said in a press conference yesterday the Government’s response was in line with other contagious disease crises such as Cholera.

“This is a public health emergency, it’s not a security emergency. It’s certainly not an economic emergency,” he said.

Ms Mohle called on the Federal Government to work closer with the nurses union at both a state and national level to minimise risks for aid workers already deployed in affected areas.

“What we’re calling upon is for the government to work with especially the ANMF federally to work through these sorts of issues, because they will have implications for the health workers who are returning,” Ms Mohle said.

“We know it’s a balancing act between keeping everybody safe, but we know that some nurses who are returning have been shabbily treated.”

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