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Spanish ambulance staff buy own Ebola suits

George Mills · 7 Nov 2014, 10:06

Published: 07 Nov 2014 10:06 GMT+01:00

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Ambulance workers made the decision to open their own wallets after deciding the suits they'd been given by authorities in the Bahía de Cádiz-La Janda district were not adequate for the level of risk posed by the Ebola virus.

"Given the SAS (regional health authorities) weren't up to the job and didn't give us the protective equipment, we looked for them ourselves," one of the health workers told local daily Diario De Cádiz.

The news comes just about Spanish nursing assistant Teresa Romero was released from hospital after recovering from the virus outside of Africa while treating two Spanish missionaries repatriated from Sierra Leone.

Spain's handling of the crisis saw health workers in Madrid calling for the resignation of health minister Ana Mato, claiming equipment and training provided to deal with Ebola were insufficient.    

In response to their own doubts, the ambulance workers in Cádiz ended up buying eight suits at a cost of €18 ($22) each — three for each of the two specialist emergency vehicles they staff, and two for the other conventional ambulance used in the city. 

They also purchased a reserve suit so that personnel could practice putting on and taking off the gear.

The health workers are now looking at buying more suits for other health professionals who regularly travel in their vehicles, while plans are also afoot to buy suits in larger sizes.

They say regional authorities have told them they should "take a step back" and isolate patients before calling 061 to activate an Ebola alert. But the ambulance staff have said this only works if a patient is in a stable condition.

What they wish to avoid, they said is a situation like a recent case at Madrid's Barajas airport where a Nigerian drug smuggler died after several of the cocaine bags he was carrying in his stomach burst and he was forced to wait for nearly an hour for people with specialist Ebola equipment to arrive. 

The health workers also pointed out they were most at risk of contagion as they were on the front line.

They pointed out the suits they had been given were the same as those received at the local Puerta del Mar hospital.

Story continues below…

"If there is suspected case (of Ebola), they are also supposed to limit their exposure and only treat the patient when it's necessary. But they have given us the same protection because they don't think we will encounter any cases," the ambulance staff said.

"Then why give us a suit? It's absurd. If they provide us with something, it should be adequate for the job."

The current Ebola outbreak had claimed 4,818 deaths as of November 5th mostly in Guinea, Liberia and Sierra Leone, according to the World Health Organization.

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George Mills (george.mills@thelocal.com)

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