The first of 1,000 volunteers from the National Health Service (NHS) have flown to former British colony Sierra Leone after a period of intense training to engage in the international effort to contain the Ebola Virus in West Africa.
Despite the NHS having undergone a series of recent care scandals, in which hospitals have been found to have neglected people in their care, leading to thousands of unnecessary deaths and abuse of elderly and demented patients, 1,000 front-line staff including doctors, nurses and psychiatrists were given the go-ahead by the government to go abroad.
The first groups have spent past weeks undertaking an extensive training programme which teaches the medical professionals how to put on and take off their protective gear without contracting Ebola, and once off the plane in Sierra Leone will undergo another week of training in-theatre before commencing operations. Of the 1,000, only around 30 have flown out so far.
The NHS employees will join an advance party of another 1,000 soldiers, sailors, and airmen, who have forward deployed aboard British aid ship RFA Argus and have built hospital and treatment facilities on land, which will now be staffed by the NHS.
Government figures have been full of praise for the volunteers. The health secretary Jeremy Hunt said: “I want to thank the brave NHS volunteers who are heading to Sierra Leone today to help in the fight against Ebola. They embody the values at the heart of our health service, and their expertise and dedication is second to none”, reports The Guardian.
Minister Justine Greening, who has responsibility for the controversial Department for International Development, which is one of the only government departments that enjoys a protected ‘ring-fenced’ annual budget, said: “To beat Ebola we desperately need the experience and dedication of skilled doctors and nurses to care for the thousands of sick and dying patients who are not receiving the treatment they need.
“Every one of these NHS heroes will play a vital role in the fight against Ebola. It is only because of their combined efforts that we stand a chance of defeating this disease”.
The British government estimates the cost of providing the infrastructure and staff for the 700-bed hospital will be £100 million, which is met by the taxpayer through the aid budget.