The Metro in London reports Britain’s hospitals may be unprepared to deal with an outbreak of the deadly Ebola virus, NHS insiders have claimed, after a suspected sufferer caused chaos in a London A&E ward.
Unprepared, ‘panicking’ staff at Lewisham hospital allowed the patient to use communal toilets and to have visitors, despite the risk of infecting others, insiders claimed this weekend.
Staff failed to follow correct procedures to deal with the deadly virus, despite high-profile NHS drills supposed to demonstrate that British hospitals are ready.
The supposed victim, who had travelled from Sierra Leone, was not transferred to a specialist unit at the Royal Free Hospital, the only fully-equipped ‘Ebola-proof’ isolation unit in the UK.
Instead, he was treated by staff at Lewisham hospital equipped with aprons, masks and gloves, rather than biohazard suits, insiders said.
The man was later found not to have the virus.
The insider at Lewisham hospital said: ‘The hospital is unprepared. Staff were panicking and scared for their safety.’
The outbreak has killed 3,000 people in West Africa, and infected Westerners who had travelled to the region as well as the health workers treating them.
A Dallas nurse who was part of the treatment team for Thomas Eric Duncan, became the first person to contract the virus in the United States over the weekend, despite wearing protective clothing.
Symptoms of the virus can take up to 21 days after infection to appear – and the virus is fatal in up to 70 per cent of cases, according to the World Health Organisation.
Researchers at Boston Northeastern University predict there is a 50 per cent chance Ebola will arrive in Britain within the next 16 days, due to Britain being a major transport hub.
Ebola coming to Ireland remains very low
Meanwhile Minister for Health Leo Varadkar has said that while the risk of Ebola coming to Ireland remains very low, we are prepared for it if it does.
He said guidelines have been put in place and we are preparing for the contingency of an infected person coming to this country.
However, Mr Varadkar said we should not frighten people or unduly concern them about something that is a very low risk.
Mr Varadkar said Ebola is not new, it has been around since the 1970s, and pointed out that Ireland has had previous experience with preparing for infectious diseases, such as swine flu and avian flu.
In terms of tracking Irish people who have travelled to the affected countries in West Africa, Mr Varakdar said there are 50 Irish citizens in those countries, and the health services know who and where they are.
He said Ireland is following World Health Organization guidelines and it does not make sense to screen people on entry to the country but rather when they are leaving the country.
On issues raised by the Irish Nurses and Midwives Organisation on a lack of clarity on the issue from the Health Services Executive for health workers, the minister said it was a bit disappointing to see unions in the health sector trying to use a risk like Ebola to make a point relating to resources or industrial relation matters.
He said there is a time and a place for such discussion and they should not exploit the risk of Ebola for other purposes.
The bottom line he said is that the risk is very low and we are well prepared for it.
The first death in Germany was reported this morning.