Over 400 staff at Altnagelvin Hospital have been trained in the event of a suspected Ebola case, it has been confirmed.
The Western Trust’s Head of Infection Control Fiona Hughes told the Journal this week that special equipment is also readily available at the hospital should it be needed.
A total of 411 doctors, nurses and cleaning staff have been trained up at Altnagelvin Hospital, and a further 157 at the South West Acute Hospital in Fermanagh.
Ms Hughes said: “We have kept the training to our Emergency Department staff and one of the wards at Altnagelvin.
“If we had a patient admitted, there is equipment in the areas as we speak and staff practice with that regularly.
“They also identify and agree on every shift two nurses who would be responsible if a patient came in querying Ebola.”
Ms Hughes said the initial training of staff involved a long presentation about Ebola and the countries worst affected by it.
“Our later training is concentrated on the really important bit- how to put on a Personal Protection Equipment (PPE) and how they take it off,” Ms Hughes said.
“The really, really essential part is taking it off. That’s when it will be contaminated, and the really crucial part is the order that that equipment comes off.”
To this end, a contingency plan has been put in place which would see any nurse or doctor dealing with a suspected Ebola patient paired with a buddy on hand to talk them through, and remind them of, procedures for self-protection.
She added: “There has been quite a large amount of protective equipment purchased on both sites. The Equipment is all set out in the Emergency Departments and there is also access to a store with a large amount of equipment if they should need it.”
There has been no new potential Ebola cases presenting in Derry or the wider west region over recent months, but Ms Hughes said that does not mean that health officials can or would be letting their guard down.
Once a month the Infection Control Team are walking trained staff through the care pathway established at both A&Es and at the ward in Altnagelvin, to make sure it is fresh in the minds. Ebola is also currently a standing item on the Infection Control team’s weekly briefings.
“As far as we can do, we can covered every angle,” Ms Hughes said.
The risk of multiple Ebola cases arising locally has been designated as being minimal, and if a case did arise, the risk would most probably be confined to the patient and family contacts. Anyone who tests positive for Ebola is also likely to be transferred to Belfast or even England.
“We will only be keeping them if England is already full and Belfast is already full. Experts in London make the final decision.
“The doctors here will do an examination and take a very detailed history and discuss with the experts.
“In the very, very remote chance Belfast and England they are full we do have plans and could manage a case here.”