New Democrats are asking the federal government to be more transparent about the steps being taken to prevent an Ebola outbreak in Canada and to produce a vaccine for the deadly virus.
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NDP health critic Libby Davies has written Health Minister Rona Ambrose, arguing that Canadians need to be kept well-informed in order to maintain confidence in the Public Health Agency's ability to handle the crisis.
Canadians, she writes, should "feel certain that we are well-equipped to deal with the scope of the crisis in West Africa and the potential of an outbreak here in Canada."
Davies specifically asks Ambrose to answer some specific questions, such as who is responsible for ensuring quarantine and treatment protocols in hospitals and who is responsible for ensuring health workers have the appropriate equipment.
She wants more information on how the agency has been communicating with health practitioners, to make sure the "best practices in reporting and monitoring" are being shared by those "who could come in contact with suspected Ebola patients."
Davies also wants to know what precautions are being taken to protect Canadians in the worst-affected areas of West Africa — "especially those who are there because of our government's commitments."
Davies is also seeking more information about the experimental Canadian Ebola vaccine, which is currently undergoing clinical trials.
Davies wants to know what percentage of the existing supply of the vaccine is being used in the trials, how much will remain for emergency use in Canada, whether production has been increased and when more of the vaccine will be available.
She ended by thanking Chief Public Health Officer Dr. Gregory Taylor and other departmental staff for briefing parliamentarians on the issue.
"I look forward to working with you to ensure we do the utmost to protect Canadians and provide leadership on the world stage during this critical time," the letter concludes.
Front-line health workers 'first line of defence': minister
In a statement released by her office on Wednesday, Ambrose said that earlier in the day, she spoke with representatives from the Canadian Federation of Nurses Unions and the Canadian Nurses Association, as well as her provincial and territorial counterparts.
Nurses and front-line health workers are "the first line of defence against infectious diseases and they must be fully included in all communications," and as such, "must be fully included in all communications," Ambrose noted.
To that end, she said, "I encouraged all provinces and territories to look into doing tests runs to ensure protocols are in place, and proper personal protective gear is available."
She also noted that there are no direct flights to Canada from affected countries in Africa.
"All international points of entry into Canada are routinely monitored 24/7."
Ambrose noted that the government has also introduced new measures "to help prevent the unlikely importation of Ebola into the country," including mandatory health assessments and fever checks on arrival.
"In Canada, we are extremely fortunate that we have some of the best hospitals in world," Ambrose stressed.
"This includes the care for infectious diseases, as well as strong infection control systems in place to protect against the spread of disease."
Harper talks with UN secretary general
Prime Minister Stephen Harper has been discussing the evolving crisis in West Africa with United Nations Secretary General Ban Ki-moon, his office reported Wednesday afternoon.
According to the statement issued by Harper spokesman Jason MacDonald, the two leaders had a "good exchange" on both the current situation and the international response.
"The secretary general expressed his appreciation for Canada's contributions to date," MacDonald reported, while the prime minister "indicated that Canada would commit additional support to the international effort in the coming days."
NDP MP Libby Davies writes to Health Minister Rona Ambrose on Ebola outbreak preparations
NDP MP Libby Davies writes to Health Minister Rona Ambrose on Ebola outbreak preparations (PDF 100KB)
NDP MP Libby Davies writes to Health Minister Rona Ambrose on Ebola outbreak preparations (Text 100KB)