Chief medical officer: Australia not Ebola ready

AUSTRALIA may not be ready to fully respond to an Ebola outbreak in our wider region, and it could be more than two weeks before all the response teams are prepared, a Senate Estimates hearing has heard.

The information from the nation's chief medical officer comes only days after he said state and territory health authorities were ready for an Ebola outbreak.

Professor Chris Baggoley told the hearing on Wednesday the rapid-response Australian Medical Assistance Teams had not received the right training.

He said the specialist training could take up to two weeks, and involved lectures and training with safety gear and personal protection and equipment.

However, Health Minister Peter Dutton said if Australia was asked by "one of our near neighbours" the government was ready to respond with another 20-strong team of health workers.

"As the Secretary of the Department of Health Martin Bowles told Senate Estimates hearings today - a team of 20 health workers can be dispatched from Australia as a first immediate response to our regional neighbours should there be an Ebola outbreak and should Australia be asked for help," he said.

He said the Darwin-based team, an extra team to the AUSMAT group, already has Ebola-trained staff with the right equipment. T

he Senate hearings came as the Royal Australasian College of Physicians joined a raft of groups calling for Australia to provide more support in West Africa.

RACP president Professor Nicholas Talley said Australia had an obligation to provide more funding than the $18 million it had already given.

"Many other developed western nations were also providing support with military personnel and equipment," he said.

- APN NEWSDESK



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