Hospitals told to prepare isolation rooms
MINISTER for Health Leo Varadkar said Irish hospitals are being told to prepare isolation rooms for any patients potentially infected by Ebola.
There could be at least one or two people suffering with Ebola in Ireland within the coming months, Minister Varadkar told the Joint Oireachtas Committee on Health and Children.
But he urged patients who feel like they may have Ebola symptoms should contact their GP by phone rather than attend the surgery.
Minister Varadkar confirmed that there have been more than 12 suspected cases which all turned out negative, including one involving a patient who attended Our Lady of Lourdes Hospital in Drogheda on Wednesday.
But he insisted that Ireland was ramping up its preparations against Ebola. All hospitals in the country are receiving a "checklist" of how they should prepare.
And management at the hospitals are being told to have one room set aside to isolate patients.
He said that people who feel they have symptoms should call their GP and the doctor could arrange for the patient to attend their local hospital where they could be assessed. If necessary, they may be sent to the national isolation unit in the Mater Hospital in Dublin. Mr Varadkar said more "dry runs" for potential cases would be carried out, while specialist equipment will be sent to protect health workers.
The minister said the highest risk to health workers treating an Ebola patient was when they were at the stage of being seriously ill. Health authorities in the US have found the exposure was likely to have happened when the special protection suits all staff caring for a patient must wear were being removed.
He would not commit to automatic repatriation of any Irish citizens diagnosed with the virus while overseas but stressed he could not accept any infected Irish person not receiving proper medical treatment.
Chief medical officer Tony Holohan said there is nowhere in Ireland licensed for safe disposal of Ebola waste but work is under way to secure this.