National Ebola response unit beefed up

Rwanda has an efficient and rapid response system in place to fight Ebola in case of any outbreak, health minister, Dr Agnes Binagwaho, said yesterday.
Medics from Kanombe Military Hospital show how to evacuate Ebola patient from a plane to hospital. (Timothy Kisambira)
Medics from Kanombe Military Hospital show how to evacuate Ebola patient from a plane to hospital. (Timothy Kisambira)

Rwanda has an efficient and rapid response system in place to fight Ebola in case of any outbreak, health minister, Dr Agnès Binagwaho, said yesterday.

Binagwaho who is also the Chairperson of National Ebola Preparedness, was yesterday speaking during a simulation exercise to evaluate the capacity to contain the virus.

The exercise, conducted at Kigali International Airport, Rwanda Military Hospital, Kanombe and Remera Mbogo Hospital involved officials from the Ministry of Health, Rwanda National Police and Rwanda Defense Force.

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Medics remove a stretcher from an ambulance. (Timothy Kisambira)

“After conducting several trainings for the past five months within different sectors of the country, it is important that we test how we can handle the patients with the highest degree of safety,” Binagwaho said.

The process involved a simulated Ebola patient with symptoms of nose bleeding, vomiting and high fever being evacuated from the airport under safety to receive treatment at the quarantine sites in hospitals.

According to Binagwaho, medical experts handling the disease needed to gain experience from an equally real scenario on top of the several awareness programs to fight Ebola.

“Through such real-like scenarios, our medical teams can be able to handle outbreaks as well as helping out our neighbours affected by Ebola if need arises,” she said. More than 5,000 people have died in the current Ebola outbreak in West Africa and there is no treatment or vaccine for the virus yet. Hospital treatment is based on giving patients fluids to stop dehydration and antibiotics to fight infections.

However, about 10 percent of the Ebola victims are health professionals, a figure that is likely to increase provided interventions are not hastened.

Binagwaho explains that: “This figure of health professionals succumbing to the deadly virus does not include other service providers like security officers engaging in the fight hence equipping them with several skills will reduce this risk”.

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A doctor carrying a medical kit arrives at the airport. (Timothy Kisambira)

Dr Ben Karenzi, the head of Rwanda Military Hospital said one of the most critical thing in the fight against Ebola in case of an outbreak was, an evacuation plan.

“Using an integrated approach involving different key players such as the Civil Aviation Authority and the Police, individuals can be safely evacuated into areas where they can receive treatment. Depending on the risk, there are several facilities specifically designed for health practices to contain Ebola,” Karenzi added.

A number of specialists; doctors, clinical psychologists, nurses; and equipment such as ambulances are all in place to handle any outbreak.

Gen. Patrick Nyamvumba, the RDF Chief of Defence Staff said: “The exercise is meant to promote immediate identification of Ebola victims, screening, safe burial and decontamination of all areas during a response.”.

He added that seven rapid response teams had been provided to create capacity within the military and police. “The program is meant to promote the aspects of national readiness to ensure public protection from Ebola.”