Australia To Contract Private Medical Staff To Fight Ebola
Prime Minister Tony Abbott has said that Australia will contract medical workers from a private company to treat Ebola victims in Sierra Leone.About A$20m (£11m; $17m) will also be committed to a treatment centre being built by the UK.
But Mr Abbott said he would not be sending government health workers.
Australia previously refused to send workers to fight an epidemic that has killed some 5,000 people in Liberia, Guinea and Sierra Leone.
Mr Abbott wanted other governments to agree to evacuate any of its medical staff who contracted the disease, before sending staff.
But Mr Abbott has now obtained reassurances from the UK, local media said.
“In the last few days we have had assurances from the United Kingdom that they would treat any Australian who is working in the Ebola impacted parts of West Africa as though he or she were a citizen of the United Kingdom,” Mr Abbott was reported as saying by ABC.
The Sydney Morning Herald, citing officials, said any infected Australian worker would be evacuated either to the UK for treatment or to Germany under a UK arrangement.
The 100-bed centre will be staffed by workers from Australian company Aspen. Most of the staff would be local, but there would be some international workers including Australian paid volunteers, Mr Abbott said.
The centre is targeted to be operational by the end of November.
Australia has come under sustained domestic criticism for not sending health workers to Africa to help fight Ebola.
However, it has provided financial aid amounting to A$8m (£4.4m) for frontline services and A$40m (£22m) to the World Health Organization. It has not ruled out increasing that contribution.
Last month, Foreign Minister Julie Bishop said the government would “not be putting Australian health workers in a risky situation in the absence of evacuation plans and an appropriate level of medical care”.
She said at the time that the government could not make those provisions.
The Australian Medical Association, the Public Health Association, the Healthcare and Hospitals Association and non-government organisation Medecins Sans Frontieres have all called for the government to do more to fight the epidemic.
Australia has also been criticised for a decision last month to suspend entry visas for people from Ebola-affected countries in West Africa.