AMA: Australia's readiness for Ebola 'still in question'

THE number of cases of Ebola worldwide reached 10,000 people on the weekend, as the Australian Medical Association asked whether Australia was ready to help.

With the first confirmed cases in New York and Mali reported last week, the World Health Organisation confirmed the number of cases had reached 10,141 on the weekend.

Most confirmed cases remain in West African countries, including Liberia (4665), Sierra Leone (3896) and Guinea (1553).

But after conflicting reports on Australia's readiness to send help last week, the AMA's president Associate Professor Brian Owler publicly questioned the nation's preparedness.

While we've got some people that are willing to do like the UK, the US, even Cuba and China for goodness sake, I think Australia needs to be doing exactly same thing and we do have people who are volunteering and ready to go.

Health Minister Peter Dutton has repeatedly said an Australian case was unlikely, and a team of at least 20 staff were ready to help if need.

However, Assoc Prof Owler said while the AMA was always backing volunteers, not government-deployed staff, he thought the nation's readiness was "still in question".

After revelations last week that the United Kingdom had asked for Australia's help, he said a UK-run treatment facility in Sierra Leone would be "expected" to be available for Australian health workers, if sent.

"While we've got some people that are willing to do like the UK, the US, even Cuba and China for goodness sake, I think Australia needs to be doing exactly same thing and we do have people who are volunteering and ready to go," he said.

MORE ON EBOLA: US and UK want Australia to help more in Ebola fight, Abbott admits

His comments followed new research released on Friday finding the number of beds needed in Montserrado County, Liberia, already exceeded the total number of beds pledged by the international community.

The modelling, published in the Lancet Infectious Diseases journal, also found that without "expanded control efforts" the number of Ebola cases in Liberia could reach up to 170,000 and more than 90,000 deaths, by mid-December this year.

- APN NEWSDESK


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