The Aussie team ready to fight Ebola

Written By komlim puldel on Kamis, 23 Oktober 2014 | 20.01

Australiaapos;s allies have asked the government to do more to tackle the Ebola crisis.

THEY are ready to fight Ebola wherever they are tasked, but the man who heads Australia's National Critical Care and Trauma Response Centre says the Commonwealth is right to hold back on sending teams to West Africa.

Infectious diseases and respiratory medicine specialist Dr Nick Coatsworth has a team of 24 — 16 nurses, four doctors and four logisticians from the Northern Territory Fire and Rescue — ready to move at 24 hours notice to treat Ebola cases within the region.

He is confident they have the training to protect themselves from infection but says until better evacuation contingencies are in place, the team should stay out of the West African Ebola epicentres.

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Leader ... Dr Nick Coatsworth is part of the 24 person team put together by the National Critical Care and Trauma Response Centre based at the Royal Darwin Hospital, to fight Ebola if the need arises. Picture: Elise Derwin Source: News Corp Australia

"The only way to get people out is on a military flight," he said. "As it stands, a C17 plane would take 30 hours to get to West Africa and then there is the return evacuation.

"If you really have an Ebola patient, you have about 48 to 72 hours before you start to vomit, diarrhoea and haemorrhage. If that happens in an aircraft, that's a very dangerous situation for the patient and the people around them."

Dr Coatsworth said they would go to West Africa, if ordered by the Commonwealth, but better plans were needed.

"We want to go over, there is no question of that," he said.

Ready to go ... Dr Nick Coatsworth suited up in the PPE gear and prevention clinical nurse manager Helen Judd are part of theteam put together by the National Critical Care and Trauma Response Centre. Picture: Elise Derwin Source: News Corp Australia

"But I think the Commonwealth response is fair. If they can't get you to a first-world intensive care unit in a reasonable time frame, it would be like sending in the SAS into Afghanistan with no helicopters to get them out."

Dr Coatsworth said if they were tasked to treat cases in, for example, Papua New Guinea, they could be assured that any infected medical staff were in fast reach of Australian hospitals that could provide quality care.

The 24 doctors, nurses and firefighters are volunteers who have been receiving intensive retraining on procedures for wearing and removing protective clothing.

They will continue in their normal day jobs until the call-up comes. Mostly, their role will be about containment.

Taking precaution ... Dr Nick Coatsworth suited up at the Royal Darwin Hospital. Picture: Elise Derwin Source: News Corp Australia

People who are evacuated to western hospitals stand a better chance of recovery, but this is not an option for the 10,000 people infected in Liberia, Sierra Leone and Guinea.

"You're not going to give people intensive care," he said. "You'll separate them from the community, give them dignity and literally give them water to drink.

"You take their blood to see if they've cleared the virus, and that's all you can do. But if you get enough infrastructure in, you can definitely stop the epidemic."

Getting people in West African countries into isolation will give them a 50 per cent chance of survival, compared with the 80 per cent death rate for those who stay at home.

Virus spreads ... a child stands underneath a signboard reading 'Police order quarantined home unauthorised should keep off' as a family home is placed under quarantine due to the Ebola virus in Port Loko, Sierra Leone. Picture: AP Source: AP

Dr Coatsworth was in the Congo for an outbreak of Marburg virus, the haemorrhagic fever similar to Ebola and which is equally as fatal.

He feels certain that the specialist staff can look after themselves, but there were risks.

"I've people who've said they wouldn't go, and just as many say they would go," he said.

He pointed out that the choice only existed while Ebola remained offshore. "If you're required to treat people in hospital in Australia, well, that's your job."

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