The following is a press release from the Anti-Privatization of Healthcare Coordination, centered in Madrid, that was issued on Oct. 7 following the announcement that a nurse at the Carlos III Hospital had contracted Ebola after contact with an Ebola patient brought back from West Africa.
The Anti-Privatization of Healthcare Coordination issued a statement last Aug. 7 characterizing the decision by the Ministry and the Council of Health in Madrid to repatriate the first Ebola patient as irresponsible, because it involved “importing in a premeditated form what was the first case [of Ebola] in the Spanish State and in Europe, and submitting workers of the Carlos III Hospital and in general the entire population to an absolutely unreasonable risk.”
No other organization, neither union nor scientific, questioned a step that is unacceptable from an epidemiological point of view, because it meant introducing a source of infection caused by a strain — the Ebola-Zaire — that is highly contagious, highly lethal and for which there is no known effective treatment.
In no way — we pointed out — could one justify the return of these two patients here, since another treatment — palliative — could have been guaranteed to them by sending field hospitals or laboratories as well as health resources to the affected area.
Also we highlighted the “healthcare travesty that had led to the closure earlier this year of the facilities that had made the Carlos III Hospital the federal center of reference for epidemic alerts, without opening up any other such center in any other Autonomous Community.” This measure was intended to convert the said hospital — as well as the Princess Hospital — into centers for treatment of the chronically ill and thus secure the business for private healthcare, removing their responsibility for “unprofitable patients.”
Unfortunately, the confirmation that the disease had been transmitted to comrade Teresa, a health worker at Carlos III Hospital who was in contact with the second patient, and the need to place others in isolation, confirmed point by point everything that CAS Madrid denounced two months ago.
Now we can add the following:
1. The dismantling of the sixth floor, where the reference center for epidemic emergencies was located, included dispersing all health personnel educated and trained in the implementation of protocols for proper treatment and isolation of diseases with a high risk of contagion. Of all the staff mentioned, the only ones who remain are a nurse on the morning shift and another in the afternoon.
2. The sixth floor was opened for the first Ebola patient after medical personnel received a course of less than an hour, in which it was explained how to put on and take off the protective clothing. After admission of the second patient, they received another course of the same duration in which some concepts were added about managing the disposal of the materials.
3. Since the exact transmission mechanisms for the disease are unknown — for example, the distance at which a drop of saliva can be contagious or not — international protocols advise the highest measures of isolation. The isolation suits being used by the medical staff are “Biohazard 3,” which are not as impervious — because they are made of more porous material and the goggles are not sealed onto the cap — as the “Biohazard 4” suits used in other countries.
4. For the same reasons, other countries have established protocols for monitoring people who have been in contact with patients; they must be restricted during the 21 days of the incubation period of the disease, and should not be allowed, for example, to go on vacation.
5. We denounce the fact that the European Union, when confronted with the Ebola epidemic in countries rich in raw materials but with very poor health resources, instead of sending aid took drastic steps to shield its borders from the immigrant population. Even more shameful is the decision of the United States to send 3,000 troops — who have no documented healthcare experience — “to combat the epidemic.” In contrast to such cynicism and contempt for the lives of people by the great powers, the decision of Cuba — a poor country of 11 million inhabitants — to send 165 doctors to Sierra Leone is even more impressive.
6. Faced with an epidemic of the seriousness of this one, and considering that it has already jumped to Europe and the U.S., what catches the eye is that no detailed studies on the initial focus of such a virulent and lethal infection have been published. We point out in this respect the coincidence that there exists a laboratory at the hospital in Kenema, Sierra Leone, which was working on the Ebola virus and which collaborates with the Medical Research Institute of Infectious Diseases of the Armed Forces of the United States regarding biological weapons.
From CAS Madrid we demand the immediate removal from positions of responsibility of all the politicians and managers who have made decisions to repatriate infected patients, as well as involving care management — events that have seriously jeopardized the health of workers and the general population. The only decent approach for those responsible would be to acknowledge their mistakes and resign.
Moreover, we reaffirm our claim that what happened is partly a result of the deterioration, dismantling and privatization of health care, which has been going on continuously since 2005 in this region, and despite all this relevant information has never been stopped so far.
Madrid, Oct. 7, 2014
Translation by WW managing editor John Catalinotto; original at casmadrid.org.