Ebola Help Requires Meticulous Preparation

      October 23, 2014 12:55

      Four nurses at the infectious diseases ward at the National Medical Center resigned recently after the government decided earlier this week to send a team of medical experts from the ministries of health and welfare, defense and foreign affairs to Ebola-hit West Africa early next month.

      The nurses were apparently worried that they would be exposed to the deadly virus should they end up caring for infected medical staff when they returned. Lee Jong-bok of the NMC told lawmakers during a National Assembly audit on Wednesday, "If we're to treat an Ebola patient, we need secure quarantined facilities and treatment rooms, and we don't have them."

      Korea has an obligation to help the international community combat the spread of Ebola, not least since the country once received the aid of advanced countries to fight infectious diseases here.

      The problem is that medical staff are highly likely to come into contact with the body fluids of infected patients, which poses a big risk to their safety. In West Africa, around 240 medical staff have been infected with the virus and around 120 have died.

      The resignation of the nurses at the NMC stirs up mixed emotions. The center is tasked with the treatment of diseases that private hospitals cannot handle. That is its purpose, so if nurses working at such an institution quit just because they are afraid of the putative risk of infection, it suggests standards of professionalism are not very high and bodes ill for an actual emergency.

      Authorities must secure an aircraft with proper quarantine equipment so that any infected medical staff can be flown back to Korea. In the U.S., two nurses who had cared for Ebola patients from West Africa ended up getting infected even though they wore protective clothing. Authorities must make sure that the proper facilities are secured to and that they are staffed with professionals.
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