herald

Monday 23 October 2017

City braced for deadly disease after test-run

The major Ebola alert exercise at the Mater in Dublin yesterday
The major Ebola alert exercise at the Mater in Dublin yesterday
The major Ebola alert exercise at the Mater in Dublin yesterday
The major Ebola alert exercise at the Mater in Dublin yesterday
The major Ebola alert exercise at the Mater in Dublin yesterday
Gardai pictured during a major incident exercise involving a potentially contagious patient at the Mater Misericordiae Hospital, Dublin

It's was like a scene straight from a movie when the Mater Hospital did a dry run of what would happen in the event of an Ebola case here.

These dramatic pictures show healthcare workers in full head-to-toe protective gear with helmets getting ready to receive a pretend patient.

Gardai with flashing sirens led the ambulance to the hospital for the reconstruction of events.

The ambulance doors swung open and the stretchered case was brought into the hospital.

It was all part of a test of the hospital's National Isolation Unit's ability to cope with a case of Ebola.

scenario

The major incident simulation was based on a scenario where an individual presents at the hospital with a suspected case of the disease.

It's was centred around testing its preparedness for an outbreak of the disease.

The real-time response saw a section of Berkeley Road outside the hospital cordoned off for 20 to 30 minutes during the exercise at 12 noon.

"Other countries have done this. It will be all supervised so that we can critique all health workers to see if they are doing things properly. Better to make mistakes in a dry run before the real case arrives," said Dr Jack Lambert, Mater Hospital infectious disease consultant, prior to the dry run.

"Staff will be evaluated at all stages, assessing patients. We will test staff putting on the special protection gear and taking off the gear. That is where the mistakes are going to take place," he added.

Doctors currently have guidelines on how they should respond in the case of someone displaying symptoms of fever if they have come back from one of the west African countries which are still experiencing outbreaks.

Several false alarms have already taken place, including one at the Mater last week when a woman with flu-like symptoms was rushed there from West Dublin by paramedics in hazmat suits. She was tested and soon given the all-clear having been taken to the National Isolation Unit in the hospital as a precaution.

Health unions have called for more training of staff amid fears one or two cases could arise.

planning

In a statement the Mater said it was conducting the exercise as part of its "major incident planning".

The exercise would involve "all services that might potentially be called upon to assist with the evaluation and management of a potential admission to the National Isolation Unit." Ambulances, Dublin Fire Brigade and gardai as well as hospital staff were all involved. A spokesman said the exercise was successful and had been of "significant assistance".

The World Health Organization (WHO) is monitoring the ongoing outbreak of Ebola in West Africa where approvimately 5,000 people have died.

The body issued an international alert in March and the epidemic has become the largest ever outbreak of the disease.

To date, no confirmed cases of Ebola have been identified in Ireland. Health experts say that the overall risk of a case being brought into Ireland is "low."

The disease has an incubation period of about three weeks, and only becomes contagious when a victim shows symptoms.

fdillon@herald.ie

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