12:16pm Wednesday 22 January 2020

Mass casualty expert says Australia appears unprepared for Ebola

Jennifer Todd

Dr Todd is a specialist in planning for the public health and medical response to all hazards in mass casualty events. She has previously worked on emergency preparedness and disaster (including pandemic influenza, smallpox, and anthrax planning) for the US Government.

Dr Todd said:

“While it is a positive development that the Abbott Government has agreed to join the international community and support the fight against the Ebola epidemic in Western Africa, the net added value to this fight is yet to be determined. The statements released by the government are vague about how much money will be committed, and how many additional healthcare providers will be sent to the area through their agreement with Aspen Medical. 

“There has been reference to Aspen Medical needing to train up its own staff, as well as training individuals in Sierra Leone to provide care in the 100 bed hospital which is being provided by the UK. I think it should be made clear that the need in Western Africa is desperate, and what they desperately need is healthcare providers and care facilities.

“What was already a perilously fragile healthcare system is now in a state of extreme crisis because so many have perished in the ongoing fight against this infection. Experts from WHO and from Medecins Sans Frontieres who are on the ground in Africa are warning that we are losing control of this epidemic. If it is not contained in Western Africa, then we could face the situation where the virus jumps beyond the borders of Africa and becomes a global concern. It is in the interest of humanity, worldwide interest, that the epidemic be contained in Africa as quickly as possible, and start to bend the curve of new cases. 

“The reluctance of this government to send healthcare workers into the hot zone sends the message that it is not prepared to deal with an Ebola case in this country. It also sends the message that those brave individuals who are volunteering to go work in the hot zone are being irresponsible. I could not disagree more. They are being profoundly responsible global citizens and stewards of humanity, and should be treated as heroes and not vectors.”

Dr Todd is also available for comment on the current Ebola situation globally, why this epidemic is different, mass casualty events in general, expected trajectory of epidemic in Africa, ways to protect yourself, ethical considerations after a case is confirmed in Australia, impact beyond a single case and health care and public health response.

Media contacts: Dr Todd can be contacted on +61 406 811 193, +61 2 4221 4048 or jtodd@uow.edu.au. For general enquires, contact Elise Pitt, Media & PR Officer, UOW, +61 2 4221 3079, +61 422 959 953 or epitt@uow.edu.au.

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