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An Australian-run medical center for Ebola patients has opened in Sierra Leone overnight, the foreign affairs minister, Julie Bishop, has announced.
Australia’s Foreign affairs minister announces another $3m for the center, bringing its contribution in Ebola fight to $45m.
Britain recently completed the building, which is near Sierra Leone’s capital, Freetown.
“Patients will be referred to the center and in line with best practice it will commence operations with five beds,” Bishop told The Guardian. “Operations will be gradually scaled up to full capacity at 100 beds under strict guidelines to ensure infection control procedures are working effectively and trained staff and safety practices are in place.”
In November Australia provided $20m to the private Australian company Aspen Medical to run the center, amid criticism it was not acting fast enough to help stop the spread of the deadly virus.
The first group – 17 Australian medical personnel who will run the facility – left for Sierra Leone just over a fortnight ago. A second group left this weekend.
“The center is currently staffed by the first cohort of Australian clinical staff, alongside trained Sierra Leonean personnel,” Bishop said.
She welcomed the New Zealand’s government contribution of 24 medical staff and $2m.
“This joint commitment demonstrates the strength of our relationship and the importance of a coordinated international response to the Ebola outbreak,” Bishop said.
More than 6,500 people, most of them in West Africa, have died since the Ebola outbreak was first detected a year ago.
Sierra Leone has the highest infection rate of the deadly hemorrhagic fever. More than 18,000 cases have been confirmed or detected by the World Health Organization.
The Australian government is advising citizens to reconsider their need to travel to the Ebola-affected countries of Sierra Leone, Guinea and Liberia.