Strike leaves Ebola dead in streets

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Published: Wednesday 8th October 2014 by The News Editor

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The bodies of Ebola victims have been left in the streets of Sierra Leone because of a strike by burial teams who say they have not been paid.

Health Ministry spokesman Sidie Yahya Tunis said the situation is “very embarrassing”, insisting money is available to pay the teams. He promised to provide more information later.

The World Health Organisation says Ebola is believed to have killed more than 600 people in Sierra Leone, where there have been more than 2,100 confirmed cases.

Meanwhile in Spain, officials said a second nursing assistant has been placed under observation for Ebola in a Madrid hospital where a colleague became infected after working with two Spanish missionary priests who contracted the disease in West Africa and later died at the centre. It is not known whether the second assistant also treated the two priests.

The infected nursing assistant is the first person known to catch the disease outside the outbreak zone in West Africa during the current epidemic. She is said to be in a stable condition.

The woman’s husband is also under observation in the Carlos III hospital while two others, a nurse and a Spanish engineer who had travelled to Nigeria, have been given the all-clear after testing negative for the virus.

Spanish authorities are investigating how the nursing assistant became infected. They are also monitoring 50 people who came into contact with her or tended the two priests who died.

Health authorities in Madrid have faced accusations of not following protocol and poorly preparing health care workers for dealing with Ebola.

Speaking on a radio breakfast programme, deputy health minister Madina Rahman later said the strike had been “resolved”, although organisers could not immediately be reached to confirm it was over.

The dispute centred on a one-week backlog for hazard pay that had been deposited in the bank but was not given to burial teams on time.

“The health ministry is going to investigate the delay in the health workers not receiving their money,” the minister said.

The burial teams have 600 workers in groups of 12, Mr Tunis said.

The government was already facing criticism this week over a shipping container filled with medical gear and mattresses which had been held up at the port for more than a month.

In Liberia, health workers said they planned to strike if their demands for more money and safety equipment were not met by the end of the week.

The workers are demanding monthly salaries of about £435 as well as personal protective equipment, said George Williams, secretary-general of the National Health Workers Association.

“We give the government up to the weekend to address all these or else we will stop work,” Mr Williams said.

The average health worker salary is currently below £310. Finance minister Amara Konneh has defended the compensation for health workers, saying last week that it was more than Sierra Leone and Guinea were offering.

Health workers are especially vulnerable to Ebola, which is spread by contact with the bodily fluids of infected people.

Liberia’s United Nations peacekeeping mission said today that an international member of its medical team had contracted Ebola, the second member of the mission to come down with the disease. The first died on September 25.

The mission is identifying and isolating others who might have been exposed and reviewing procedures to mitigate risk, said Karin Landgren, special representative of UN secretary-general Ban Ki-moon.

Published: Wednesday 8th October 2014 by The News Editor

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