24 Oct 2014

Doctors asked not to decline Ebola care

6:31 pm on 24 October 2014

The Medical Council has written to all district health boards saying it expects most doctors to be ready and willing to care for a patient with Ebola if required.

Middlemore Hospital's clinical head of infectious diseases, Stephen McBride, dressed in personal protection gear.

Middlemore Hospital's clinical head of infectious diseases, Stephen McBride, dressed in personal protection gear. Photo: RNZ / Kim Baker Wilson

Auckland's Middlemore Hospital said it has invited applications from staff who have the skills and are willing to work in its special new containment unit that will manage any Ebola patients.

Clinical leader of infection services at Counties Manukau District Health Board David Holland said staff members who don't want to care for patients with Ebola won't have to.

He said they have asked staff to apply internally for work in the new isolation unit at Middlemore Hospital, and prefer to use staff who are keen to do the work.

"The people that we want are those who are happy to be involved in this kind of work. We think that's probably best in terms of the practice and how they would actually manage in the unit. I think it's far better to have somebody who actually has said they want to work in the unit, rather than directing somebody."

But Medical Council chair Andrew Connolly said doctors' training obliges them to be available unless they have particular fears or problems.

He said barring that extreme situation, the health system can't afford to have doctors picking and choosing what they do in emergencies.

"If the patient needs something doing and you have the clinical ability to do it and it is as safe for you to do it as can reasonably be expected, you have a duty of care to do it."

The Council has reminded all DHBs that it is safe for staff to treat patients with ebola, using personal protective gear carefully.

Willing staff in Canterbury

Canterbury District Health Board says staff there are keen to care for patients with ebola if they receive any.

Chief Medical Officer Nigel Millar said staff there are keen to do whatever is necessary.

"I think staff are keen to be involved. Obviously there might be some people with particular circumstances that find it too daunting which we have to respect. But on the whole, yes, people are keen to be involved, but on the basis that they need the training."

The Medical Council has reminded all DHBs that it is safe for staff to treat patients with ebola, using personal protective gear carefully.

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