A Canadian Forces medical team left CFB Trenton in Ontario on Saturday en route to Britain, where they’ll undergo training before deploying to Sierra Leone as part of the effort to combat the Ebola outbreak, the military said.
The Forces said about 40 nurses, doctors, physicians’ assistants, medics and support are to train alongside U.K. military personnel, and most of them will continue on to Sierra Leone by later this month.
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"There’s no question it's a little scary, but we also have very good training and we're a team. We'll be working with the British and will be there to help people," said Master Cpl. Lisa Ouellette before departing for the U.K.
Lt. Melanie Espina, a physician, said contagion risks are minimal "when proper equipment is worn."
Treating health workers
The Canadian Forces team will be working at a British-built clinic in Sierra Leone treating local and international health care workers, who themselves have become infected in the course of treating Ebola patients from the general population.
The deployment is the first contingent of Canadian Forces medical staff to deploy to West Africa as part of the global anti-Ebola effort. The team is expected to remain in Sierra Leone for a maximum of six months.
The Department of National Defence announced the deployment last week.
“I am proud our Canadian Armed Force professionals and support staff members will meaningfully contribute to this important international mission," said Minister of National Defence Rob Nicholson.
The government has an evacuation plan in place after recently signing an agreement with two commercial companies, Health Minister Rona Ambrose said.
"We have resolved the medevac issue. We didn't feel it was responsible for us to be encouraging people to go to West Africa until we felt very comfortable with the medical evacuation options for Canadians. We feel comfortable with that now," Ambrose said.
$20.9 million to help fight
Canada is also offering an additional $20.9 million to help fight the Ebola outbreak in West Africa.
The $20.9 million will be given to 10 humanitarian organizations:
- For treatment and psychological support.
- To help local communities cope with the outbreak.
- To train medical personnel and emergency experts who will be deployed to the region.
The Red Cross says it has 17 people currently on the ground, and the additional money for urgent training needs will help fill the demand for health-care workers in Ebola treatment centres in Guinea, Liberia and Sierra Leone.
"Since the beginning of this Ebola outbreak in March 2014, recruiting doctors, nurses and support staff has been our greatest challenge," said Conrad Sauvé, secretary general of the Canadian Red Cross.
With the announcement Thursday, Canada has committed $113.5 million to help in the fight against Ebola.
According to the World Health Organization, there were 15,351 reported cases and 5,459 deaths worldwide.