HSE spent €72k on anti-Ebola kits as virus fears peaked
More than 3,000 doctors received protective clothing and equipment for use in dealing with patients who might be suspected of being in contact with the Ebola virus.
The HSE spent €72,000 on special packs containing masks, gowns, goggles and gloves to send out to general practitioners throughout Ireland last year.
The Personal Protective Equipment (PPE) packs were delivered to the surgeries of family doctors when concern about the possibility of a case being discovered in Ireland was at its highest during the outbreak in Africa.
A HSE spokeswoman told the Herald yesterday that a further 9,000 PPE packs are stockpiled for use if required.
The Ebola virus is mainly confined to West African countries including Sierra Leone and Guinea, and the Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade advises against all non-essential travel to those countries.
The Medical Independent reported that 3,200 GPs received PPE packs.
“Each GP received a pack and each practice received one extra pack – three GPs in a practice would have received four packs,” said a HSE spokesperson. The packs were sent out in August last year. Packs also contain a waste bag for the used materials and an information leaflet.
The Health Protection Surveillance Centre (HPSC) director, Dr Darina O’Flanagan, advised GPs last October there was no need for special masks to protect against airborne transmission, as the Ebola virus is not transmitted this way.
The Department of Health said that there are plans to carry out an extensive review of the national response to the Ebola outbreak as soon as “the current outbreak has abated”.
Doctors were advised not to touch patients who might have had the disease and to keep one metre away from them.
For a patient to be a suspected case they had to have a temperature of at least 101.5C, a history of fever in the past 24 hours and also to have travelled from an affected country in the previous 21 days.
Patients who fitted that criteria who telephoned for an appointment were to be advised not to come to the surgery but to isolate themselves, and arrangements would then be made to admit them to hospital.
Patients were also advised not to use public transport when getting to hospital.
There were no known cases of Ebola in Ireland, although the HSE is understood to have dealt with more than a dozen “suspect cases” up to the end of last year.
Globally, there were 19,497 reported cases of Ebola by the end of 2014, with 7,588 reported deaths according to the World Health Organisation.
National guidelines stipulated that any suspect cases in Ireland were to be dealt with at the National Infection Control Unit at the Mater Hospital in Dublin.