Varadkar vows more equipment and training for health care workers in Ebola fight

Varadkar vows more equipment and training for health care workers in Ebola fight

Ireland is ramping up its preparations against Ebola, the health minister Leo Varadkar has said.

Mr Varadkar stressed there was no reason to believe emergency departments would be swamped with cases of the killer disease or could not handle a spread of the outbreak.

But he warned that the virus was escalating and there was a low risk of infections here – most likely from people returning from the worst affected countries in west Africa.

“It’s reasonable that health care workers will be concerned about the risk of transmission to them of infections as virulent as Ebola,” he told an emergency meeting on the disease.

“Though it is unlikely, it is possible and we have seen already a number of health care workers being infected in Spain and Texas.

“For this reason we now need to step our preparedness.”

Training among medics and healthcare workers is to be stepped up, more “dry runs” for potential confirmed cases will be carried out, while further specialist equipment will be despatched.

Mr Varadkar said an emergency taskforce of Government ministers met two weeks ago about fears over the spread of Ebola.

But it was not publicised at the time in case it would “unnecessarily heighten concerns”, he told a parliamentary watchdog.

The taskforce will be meeting again.

There have been 12 suspected Ebola cases in Ireland – including the death of a man in Donegal who had returned from Sierra Leone during the summer – but all turned out to be clear from the disease.

Mr Varadkar said the likely scenario of any spread of the deadly virus to Ireland would be one or two confirmed cases, likely from people returning from Sierra Leone, Guinea or Liberia.

There are currently 54 Irish citizens in those three countries, and they are being monitored by the Department of Foreign Affairs.

Questioned by the Oireachtas Committee on Health and Children, Mr Varadkar said there have been dry runs in some hospitals for a confirmed Ebola case but not in all.

These are to be completed in the coming weeks.

Irish aid workers in west Africa have been “well briefed” on what to do if returning and have been ordered to contact public health officials.

Health chiefs are considering putting together a specialist team that can go into hospitals if there is a confirmed case.

The health minister said there were also 5,000 Ebola kits issued to GPs and out-of-hours services around the country, but admitted he was not 100% sure every practice has the necessary equipment.

“I am satisfied that we are ready, but the situation is escalating and we need to escalate our response,” he said.

More on this topic

UN says Ebola not yet a global emergencyUN says Ebola not yet a global emergency

VIDEO: Ebola nurse Pauline Cafferkey visited school day before hospital readmissionVIDEO: Ebola nurse Pauline Cafferkey visited school day before hospital readmission

Soldiers coming home from Ebola-hit Sierra LeoneSoldiers coming home from Ebola-hit Sierra Leone

Three-day lockdown in Sierra Leone in bid to stamp out EbolaThree-day lockdown in Sierra Leone in bid to stamp out Ebola


More in this Section

Coronavirus: Restrictions on movement to remain in place for Northern IrelandCoronavirus: Restrictions on movement to remain in place for Northern Ireland

Dr Tony Holohan reiterates call for those awaiting Covid-19 test results to remain in isolationDr Tony Holohan reiterates call for those awaiting Covid-19 test results to remain in isolation

One-off use of Dublin Convention Centre to sit Dáil to cost €160kOne-off use of Dublin Convention Centre to sit Dáil to cost €160k

Reports of Dubliners 'flocking' to beaches in Mayo and Wexford led to signing of emergency lawsReports of Dubliners 'flocking' to beaches in Mayo and Wexford led to signing of emergency laws


Lifestyle

From sweet expectation to bitter defeat.The 7 emotional stages of beginner baking

Fleabag, Love/Hate and a poignant new documentary series are among the options available, writes Des O'Driscoll.What to stream on Netflix, the RTÉ Player and other services

A travel show in Turkey and a look a the science of Coronavirus are among today's top picks.Thursday's TV highlights: Travelling in Turkey and the science of Coronavirus among today's top picks

More From The Irish Examiner