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Rapid response on behalf of the Australian Government saves lives in Sierra Leone

PROJECT

Ebola Response in Sierra Leone 

Sectors

I congratulate Aspen Medical for its professionalism in managing Australia’s Ebola Treatment Centre and thank the dedicated healthcare workers who delivered Australia’s contribution.

The Hon Julie Bishop MP, Foreign Minister.

BACKGROUND

On 5 November 2014, the Prime Minister announced that Australia would increase its contribution to the global fight against Ebola Virus Disease (EVD). This response involved commissioning and managing an Ebola Treatment Centre (ETC), constructed by the UK Government in Sierra Leone. The Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade (DFAT) chose Aspen Medical to manage the ETC.

Within 24 hours of the announcement, Aspen Medical established a Project Management Office in Canberra and launched a volunteer applications webpage and dedicated LinkedIn page. Within 72 hours, an advance party was deployed to Freetown in Sierra Leone to gather intelligence and to liaise with key stakeholders. Over the following five days, Aspen Medical deployed a management and logistics team into Sierra Leone and a Water, Sanitation and Hygiene (WASH) Subject Matter Expert to the UK to ensure that all training and procedures aligned with World Health Organization and Médecins Sans Frontières (MSF) guidelines.

In all, 73 Australian and New Zealand nationals underwent pre-deployment training with Aspen Medical prior to departing for Sierra Leone. Members of the first deployed team undertook a ‘Train the Trainer’ course with MSF in Sierra Leone.

On completion of that initial and one-off course, the Australian-managed ETC became self-sufficient.

The ETC became operational on schedule on 14 December 2014. This coincided with the opening of a number of other ETCs across Sierra Leone. This surge in ETCs supported the containment and reduction of the epidemic.

In total, the ETC admitted 216 patients. Whilst not all were diagnosed with Ebola they presented with symptoms consistent with the early onset of the disease. Other diseases including malaria, Lassa fever, HIV and gastroenteritis were treated and the patients supported to full recovery. The Australian-managed ETC accepted all patients exhibiting EVD-type symptoms. In addition to the Ebola survivors, the clinic contributed to the treatment of 120 survivors of serious conditions other than Ebola.

Ebola has become known as the ‘Carer’s Disease’ due to the high rate of infection in health professionals. Consequently, Aspen Medical is particularly proud of the fact that a large team consisting of 73 Australian and NZ health professionals, supported by a team of over 250 locals, recorded a zero infection rate. The Australian Government response to the Ebola outbreak in Sierra Leone concluded on 30 April 2015.

CHALLENGES

  • rapid response required
  • austere environment
  • politically-sensitive
  • multi-agency collaboration