Thoughts from an active pensioner who is now somewhat past his Biblical "Use-by date"

"Why just be difficult, when with a little more effort you can be bloody impossible?"

Tuesday, 30 December 2014

Ebola Arrives in Britain

Ebola has arrived here, well at least to Scotland, having been carried to this country from Sierra Leone via Casablanca and Heathrow by a returning female health worker.

She was admitted initially to the Unit for Infectious Diseases at Gartnavel Hospital and a statement was issued saying that because "she was diagnosed in the very early stages of the disease, the threat to others is low". "Queen Nicola" issued a statement saying that “Scotland has been preparing for this possibility from the beginning of the outbreak in West Africa and I am confident that we are well prepared.”

Just how well prepared Scotland was for this eventuality is demonstrated by the fact that this morning the BBC news informed us that the patient has been transported from Glasgow to Northolt Airport by the RAF and taken in an RAF ambulance to the Royal Free Hospital in London which has Britain's only facility for dealing with highly infectious diseases.

So both the statements from Scotland appear to be untrue. I don't think if patient was in "the very early stages of the disease" she would have been transferred to the Royal Free Hospital in such a panic overnight, nor is "Queen Nicola's" statement that Scotland is prepared for such an eventuality, unless you consider that "being prepared" means having made arrangements to shift the problem to London.

On the surface, the Scottish NHS appears superior to that in England, but it is becoming clear that whilst it may appear superior to the majority of users in that it provides free prescriptions, free car parking and the like, it is clearly not investing in the modern high-tech facilities which are necessary if the service is to provide a full range of treatments for all types of illnesses. I just wonder whether any other types of cases are being transferred to English hospitals because suitable facilities are not available in Scotland. I just hope the English NHS and the RAF charge the Scottish NHS for the costs incurred in transport and treatment, or is this a further hidden subsidy to Scotland by the overtaxed English?

There are lots of questions to be asked about Britain's reaction to Ebola.
First and foremost is why our only centre for the treatment of infectious diseases is at a hospital in the heart of London? Surely, it should be as far away as reasonable from major population centres and certainly not in a very busy general hospital. If I was given a routine appointment at the "Royal Free", I'd probably turn it down! I would have thought isolation facilities should be at a secure site such as Porton Down where they study infectious diseases and are routinely used to taking extreme precautions against infection.

What happened to the airport checks on people coming from infected countries? This person apparently flew into Heathrow and then transferred to a BA flight to Glasgow. How comes it that the much publicised airport checks didn't identify the problem?

Other questions to be asked are about what efforts are being made to sterilise the aircraft involved and contact the other passengers. If the female concerned used the toilet during the flight, there would seem a high probability that anyone else using it could have picked up the infection. What about things that she touched, cutlery, glasses, etc which could also be infected and which is unlikely to be removed by a low temperature wash in a dish washer? What about the aircraft air circulation system? For once I hope that the appropriate trade unions are making a fuss on behalf of their aircrew members.

Now I have the greatest respect for all the health workers who are prepared to go and work in these hell-holes in Africa but the way they return is totally unacceptable. We need a proper quarantine centre somewhere in that part of the world, and all returning workers should have to spend an appropriate time there before travelling home.

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