Red Cross needs volunteers to help contain Ebola in West Africa

The Canadian Red Cross is looking for people to help with the ongoing Ebola outbreak in West Africa.

Canadian Red Cross says doctors, nurses, social workers needed for 8-week commitment

Judith Bosse, (left to right), assistant deputy minister at the Public Health Agency of Canada, Defence Minister Rob Nicholson, Health Minister Rona Ambrose and Dr. Gregory Taylor, Canada's chief public health officer, watch a nurse demonstrate how to remove protective clothing after treating a hypothetical Ebola patient. (Patrick Doyle/Canadian Press)

The Canadian Red Cross is looking for people to help with the ongoing Ebola outbreak in West Africa.

While it's no longer dominating the headlines the way it did earlier this fall, scores of people are still dying from the Ebola outbreak in West Africa. 

The World Health Organization says more than 6,200 people have died and the number of new infections is on the rise in both Guinea and Sierra Leone.

Chris Baert-Wilson, Atlantic director of community health for the Canadian Red Cross, says her organization is looking for more medical professionals from this region to head to West Africa to help contain the spread.  

The Red Cross is looking for 150 volunteers over the next six months. She said that would be enough to have 16 staff at any given time. Baert-Wilson says there are just 16 applicants so far.  

"We’re looking for folks with infection prevention and control [experience], … doctors, we’re looking for nurses to help out, and we’re looking for folks that can provide psycho-social support — so social workers, that style of professional, that are able to support the families and the patients that have Ebola," says Baert-Wilson.

'Intense physical work, as well as emotional'

Dr. Danielle Perreault is a physician in Montreal who's heading to West Africa later this week. It is her third deployment with the Red Cross.

"I went into medicine in order to go and work in West Africa," she told CBC’s Information Morning.

Perreault says her family was afraid, initially, but she was able to assuage some of their fears by talking it out. She leaves Saturday for Geneva for training. On Dec. 18 she will travel to Sierra Leone.

"Of course, the risk is there, but we do have a lot of support along the way. I would really encourage my colleagues to think about it because we absolutely need help over there. There’s really not enough of us that can take care of people and that makes a big difference [in terms of] life and death," she says.

Baert-Wilson wants for volunteers to commit to eight weeks.

"Four weeks on the ground and you need a week of preparation. They put you through some rigorous training and make sure you know all about the disease, and how to put on and take off your personal protective equipment. Then, when you return back to Canada, there’s a 21-day rest period where you self-monitor, you take your temperature twice a day and basically recuperate," she says.

"It’s very intense physical work, as well as emotional."

Baert-Wilson says during the first seven days of the rest period, volunteers will deliver groceries or help with other needs so volunteers don’t have to leave the house.

She also says volunteers don’t have to worry about the financial impact of volunteering overseas. The Red Cross pays volunteers their current salary, plus a stipend. Also, federal employees can apply to be granted leave.

If you are a medical professional interested in doing a stint in West Africa,  you can visit the Red Cross's website for more information.

Or, you can call the general Canadian Red Cross number at 1-800-418-1111.


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