Ebola: should we go?

Yesterday Health Minister Peter Dutton announced that Australia would fund a private company to establish a 100-bed hospital to fight Ebola in Sierra Leone.

The Federal Government has appointed Aspen Medical, a private local company, to manage the establishment of a $20 million, 100-bed hospital in Sierra Leone. The contract is for six months after which time it will be reviewed. Speaking on ABC Radio National this morning, the chief executive of Aspen Medical, Glenn Keys, estimated that, of the 240 medical and technical staff, just 10-20 per cent would be recruited from Australia. Should any of the staff contract the virus, they will be evacuated to Britain or Europe, not Australia.

Listen to Glenn Keys outline Aspen Medical’s contract on Radio National.

Opinion: Better late than never

Having delayed a response to the requests for Australian input to the global efforts to delay the spread of Ebola, we now have a solution – of sorts.

Yesterday we heard that the Federal Government has appointed private operators to manage our contribution to the efforts to contain the spread of Ebola, which has claimed more than 6000 lives to date. Initially the government claimed that we could not assist the many other nations, including China, the USA and most European countries, as we are so far away, it was too difficult to evacuate any medical staff who became infected. So this is a solution, of sorts. It is certainly better than doing nothing, as this deadly disease poses a threat far greater than the so-called Islamic State conflict in the Middle East. But the appointment of a private company to manage our response – and be responsible for the safety of all personnel – seems to be evidence that our government wants a ‘hands-off’ approach to this global health crisis. The company concerned does seem to have strong experience in the field, with a clinic in Liberia and previous work in the Solomon Islands and Timor. But private enterprise should not be wholly responsible for our activities in the world health arena. A partnership would have made much more sense. 

What do you think? Do you endorse our engagement on the ground in West Africa? And if so, are you supportive of a contract with a private company or would your prefer more government ‘ownership’ of this problem?

Written by Kaye Fallick