Trust staff growing nervous over Ebola

Altnagelvin Hospital's A &E entrance (right).
Altnagelvin Hospital's A &E entrance (right).

The Western Trust had to give ‘immediate’ training to staff at Altnagelvin A&E department during a case of suspected Ebola this week, it has emerged.

The Journal has been told by well-placed sources that there was “chaos” in the A&E when the person at the centre of the Ebola scare arrived on Tuesday night.

One medical professional said that while the scare was a false alarm, staff at the Derry hospital and beyond were now growing extremely alarmed over procedures, equipment and their own safety.

The source said there was widespread concerns over the adequacy and effectiveness of Personal Protective Equipment (PPE) which he said was acquired for the swine flu outbreak and has been in storage for over two years.

The current health budget cuts and the infection of two medical staff who were treating the now deceased Thomas Eric Duncan in America has compounded those fears, he said, adding: “My concern is, does the equipment the Trust have in storage meet the necessary standards to fight Ebola and does it offer the protection that is required?

“I am also concerned that if someone phones in and complains of the symptoms of Ebola, is the ambulance dispatched taken out of service, and personnel stood down? Is there a task force set up? Is there an isolation place for anybody with symptoms? Staff need to be told all this .”

A spokeswoman for the Western Trust said all appropriate PPE equipment was available during the scare, and that the Trust was working closely with the Public Health Agency to ensure the necessary systems were in place.

Unconfirmed reports suggest the person at the centre of the Altnagelvin Ebola scare on Tuesday works in the aviation industry and had been to Africa.

One medical source said of the incident: “The feedback I am getting is that the staff who were on duty didn’t know what the procedure was. They were totally at a blank.

“People want to know if they can refuse to deal with a case like this.”

He added; “I am totally aware of fear among staff.”

A Trust spokeswoman responded: “Staff training had commenced within high risk areas and 12 Emergency Department (ED) Nurses at Altnagelvin had already been trained, although not all were on duty on Tuesday.

“As a result, the Infection Prevention Control Team were present in the ED and provided immediate training to staff involved. They remained in the Department supporting all staff throughout the incident.”

She added that A&E had been “extremely busy” on Tuesday night with extra doctors and nurses drafted in from other departments.”

The Trust spokeswoman said that the risk of getting Ebola in the north remained low.