NHS wards were left reeling after two suspected cases of Ebola walked into unprepared A&E departments over the weekend.
Staff at London’s University Hospital Lewisham are said to have panicked when a 24-year-old man, recently returned from Sierra Leone where nearly 1,000 people have died from the virus, demonstrated Ebola-like symptoms in the A&E department on Saturday night.
Meanwhile, an Ebola scare shut down Coventry’s main walk-in centre on Saturday after another man, who had recently returned from Nigeria which has seen a handful of cases, arrived at the Hillfields centre with a fever.
An unnamed source in The Sun described the reaction on Saturday night as “farcical” and alleged the London hospital was ill-prepared to deal with Ebola cases.
The damning assessment comes as the director general of the World Health Organisation Dr Margaret Chan labelled the Ebola outbreak "unquestionably the most severe acute public health emergency in modern times." She added the Ebola virus had progressed from a public health crisis to “a crisis for international peace and security.”
Describing the reaction, the unnamed source claimed: “The hospital is unprepared. Staff are panicking and scared for their safety.”
Although the man later did not test positive for the Ebola virus, the source described how staff at the hospital refused to allow the patient on their ward – with one doctor purportedly “reluctant to go near him.”
See the Ebola outbreak mapped
See the Ebola outbreak mapped
1/7 25 March 2014
This outbreak of the Ebola virus first emerged in the Guéckédou region of Guinea, at a crossroads with both Liberia and Sierra Leone
2/7 31 March
On 31 March the WHO confirmed the outbreak was now international, spreading first into Liberia's northern-most Lofa region
3/7 27 May
The virus spread to Sierra Leone at the end of May - just as agencies were hoping the worst was over
4/7 27 July
In Sierra Leone the virus boomed, and then it spread to Nigeria when the Liberian diplomat Patrick Sawyer flew from Monrovia to Lagos
5/7 9 August
The Nigeria cases sparked fears around the world, and there have now been deaths in Spain and Saudi Arabia involving people who had travelled to West Africa. The numbers of cases continue to rise
6/7 17-20 September
In mid-September, Senegal confirmed its first case linked to the Ebola outbreak, a development the WHO described as a top priority emergency. Numbers of cases continued to grow exponentially in Guinea, Sierra Leone and Liberia, as experts warned they could number one million by January if not contained
7/7 8 October
Two cases of Ebola have now been reported in the US and Europe - the first times the virus has been contracted among health workers outside Africa
“The patent has his own room with a toilet but he’s been free to use a communal toilet and kitchen, the source claimed.
“He has even been allowed visitors, which means the infection is not being properly contained. It is unbelievable.
“You see pictures on TV of doctors in biohazard suits but we only have an apron, mask and flimsy surgical gloves.” A spokesperson for Lewisham hospital said to The Independent the case in question was judged “low risk”, and therefore did not require the full biohazard suits.
The spokesperson claimed they were investigating reports the man had been allowed to use communal facilities but ascribed the reaction to worried staff members.
They added: “It’s important to stress that we did follow robust and established systems that are in place to manage and care for people with suspected infectious diseases.”
A University Hospitals Coventry and Warwickshire NHS Trust spokesman said: "We are treating a patient admitted with a fever who has recently returned from Nigeria and has tested positive for an infectious disease which is not Ebola.”
The scares came as Ebola medical drills took place across the country, with Health Secretary Jeremy Hunt insisting the drills have shown the Government and emergency services are ready if the disease reached the UK. The simulations saw actors in different situations mimic symptoms of the virus.
Today reports claim the government has rushed through an order for half a million Ebola suits for British forces and health workers.
A Hull-based firm is reportedly due to deliver 100,000 suits each month.
Managing director Thomas Martin said to Metro: “Our original contract was for 50,000, but that was doubled this morning. Within three minutes of getting that order, we were on to manufacturers to work out how to meet the production schedule.”
More than 4,000 people have died after contracting Ebola, with the majority of cases based in Sierra Leone, Liberia, and Nigeria. The World Health Organisation has called the epidemic the “most severe acute health emergency in modern time”.
Last week Spanish nurse became the first person outside west Africa to contract the disease, after nursing an infected missionary in Madrid.Reuse content