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Canada's health minister has announced $30 million more in aid to the United Nations mission to fight the Ebola outbreak in West Africa.
Health Minister Rona Ambrose and Dr. Gregory Taylor, Canada's chief public health officer, held a news conference on Friday in Toronto on Canada's response to the Ebola outbreak in West Africa.
Ambrose formally announced the funding, which CBC News reported Wednesday.
"Today’s announcement of an additional $30 million contribution to international efforts led by the United Nations Mission for Ebola Emergency Response (UNMEER) will help strengthen global efforts to stop the outbreak, treat the infected, ensure essential services, preserve stability and prevent the spread of the Ebola virus disease in West Africa," the federal government said in a statement.
The new funding will be used by the World Health Organization, including $11 million set aside for the International Federation of the Red Cross and Red Crescent Societies to assist Ebola Treatment Units and $6 million for UNICEF and the World Food Programme to meet logistics and transportation needs of responders.
Red Cross Canada said the money will also be used to produce radio programs and send text messages to teach locals how to stop the spread of the disease.
Ambrose said the money comes from the country's international aid funds.
World Vision Canada welcomed the increased Canadian commitment and said the focus to defeat Ebola should be on the ground in Guinea, Liberia and Sierra Leone.
"It’s in those countries where this outbreak must be brought under control. Canada can play a leading role in these efforts, and it is particularly urgent that we do so now, given the rapid spread of the disease," World Vision Canada’s president and CEO Dave Toycen said in an email.
Of the $35 million Canada previously pledged, only about $5 million has been spent so far.
The federal government also plans to ship 800 to 1,000 vials of its experimental Ebola vaccine to the WHO in Geneva on Monday, CBC News reported.
Earlier on Friday, Ontario's Health Ministry announced it is enhancing preparations to fight Ebola, such as adding staff and designating 10 hospitals as referral centres in the event the virus becomes an issue in the province.
Dr. Eric Hoskins, Ontario's minister of health and long-term care, announced the new precautionary measures at Toronto Western Hospital.
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The 10 Ontario hospitals designated for referrals include four in Toronto, two in Ottawa and one each in Hamilton, Sudbury, Kingston and London. The hospitals were chosen because they already have sophisticated infection control systems and procedures in place, officials said.
The World Health Organization says the current Ebola outbreak centred in West Africa, where more than 4,000 people have died, is the largest and most complex one since the virus was discovered in 1976. The U.S. has seen two health-care workers diagnosed with the virus after they contracted it from the first patient to be diagnosed with the disease in the U.S.
The risk of transmission of Ebola virus disease is very low in Canada, said Dr. David Mowat, the province’s interim chief medical officer of health.
"There are no confirmed cases of Ebola or any other hemorrhagic virus diseases in Canada," Mowat said. "In fact, there has never been a case of such a disease in Canada."
As part of Ontario's new preparedness measures, two nurses at each hospital will now exclusively care for any confirmed Ebola patient at all times under the supervision of qualified management staff.
More protective equipment such as biohazard suits and N95 masks will be available for those caring for suspected Ebola patients.
Ambrose said Ontario's announcement sets the bar for the country. She noted that 98 per cent of travellers from West Africa come through Ontario and Quebec.
"It's very important that all health-care workers not only are safe but that they feel safe," she said.
Taylor acknowledged more can and will be done to train health-care workers on Ebola safeguards, including the safe use of face masks. He added that hospitals are already well-versed in infection control measures.
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As of Monday, the provincial lab will also be able to test for the Ebola virus, Hoskins said. Specimens will continue to be sent to the National Microbiology Laboratory in Winnipeg for confirmation.
The province is also outfitting ambulances to safely transport potential cases of Ebola to designated hospitals in an isolation bubble.
Hoskins also created a working group he’ll chair that will include front-line health workers to advise him.
The moves come as fallout continues over two health-care workers who contracted Ebola from the first patient to be diagnosed with the virus in the U.S.
"We're all learning from what happened in the United States" and the experiences of workers fighting the infectious disease on the front lines, said Hoskins, a medical doctor who has worked in Africa.
Mowat said the SARS outbreak in 2003 led the province to strengthen its capacity to anticipate, prepare for and respond to health emergencies.
"The designated hospitals will provide special isolation units that are necessary to properly treat patients while keeping workers and the public safe," Linda Haslam-Stroud, president of the Ontario Nurses' Association, said in a statement.