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Issue #1664      November 12, 2014

Australia lags in Ebola response

The Doctors Reform Society has joined the calls from the AMA and the NSW Nurses Association for Australia to increase its role in the Global response to the increasing Ebola epidemic. The aid agency Oxfam has warned Ebola could become the “definitive humanitarian disaster of our generation” if more is not done to halt the spread of the virus.

Oxfam, which works in the two worst-hit countries – Liberia and Sierra Leone – last week called for more troops, funding and medical staff to be sent to tackle the west African epicentre of the epidemic and chief executive Mark Goldring warned that the world was “in the eye of a storm”.

The Doctors Reform Society National Conference held in Sydney on October 17, noted the federal government’s concern about sending doctors and nurses to help fight the Ebola epidemic in West Africa and the relatively small contribution to the international effort of $18 million.

“Some of these concerns are valid,” said Dr Con Costa, National president of the Doctors Reform Society, “but we are worried about a lack of transparency and relative inertia compared to the Abbott government’s aggressive position on international affairs to date. Especially a lack of information on Australia’s preparedness and our part in the global response - including whether past cutbacks to the public health system and customs and immigration has increased Australia’s vulnerability to any future international spread of the disease.”

Given that the Ebola outbreak is rapidly reaching a new stage, and the importance of containment i.e. at the current rate of spread we could be looking at over 1 million infected and a fatality rate of over 70 percent by January 2015. An exponential growth in new cases is predicted if there is no well organised and well funded early response, as is being called for by the UN/ WHO, President Obama of the USA and PM Cameron of Great Britain.

The Doctors Reform Society National Conference resolved to put to the Health Minister, Peter Dutton and PM Tony Abbott the following questions:

  1. What measures are being looked at by the Australian government to support Australian doctors and nurses going to West Africa - either as part of an Australian health team or embedded in international teams - given that early containment of the disease is the only realistic, practical, humane and affordable strategy in fighting Ebola?
  2. Are less risky, but equally important support alternatives, being also considered as part of our global response - including sending public health workers, engineers and military teams to assist with infrastructure in West Africa?
  3. Will the government make public the discussions it is having with the WHO and the CDC and what is being discussed in regards to Australia’s contribution to the fight against Ebola?
  4. What steps are being taken by the federal government to boost Australia’s public health system to increase Australia’s preparedness should the disease enter a new phase i.e. spreading internationally?

Next article – Climate change deniers, polluters run riot

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