By Evie Andreou
WEAKNESSES and gaps in some procedures were observed by experts assessing the first drill to handle patients suspected to be infected with the deadly Ebola virus, Health Minister Philippos Patsalis said yesterday.
Participating in the drill that aimed to evaluate the level of readiness of the health ministry and their cooperation with other services, were staff from Larnaca airport, the ambulance service, and the Nicosia and Larnaca General hospitals.
The first scenario dealt with a suspected Ebola case at Larnaca airport and the second with a supposed student from a high-risk country that had the symptoms of the virus and visited the emergency unit of the Nicosia hospital to seek help.
Commenting on the gaps, Patsalis, who oversaw the exercise, said that this is the reason why drills take place, to identify the important details and gaps that could lead to staff infections.
He added that the corrective measures will be taken once experts evaluated the procedures.
“It is important to cover those gaps, so that the suspected case is contained in such a way that it does not cause an epidemic,” he said.
During the drill, participants and others present were shown the especially modulated rooms that have been prepared to accept suspected Ebola patients, as well as the protection suits to be worn by the healthcare staff.
Constant changes in instructions issued by international health organisations lead to the continued changing of the protection uniforms, the minister said.
He added that so far, different types of uniforms have been supplied and that the ministry always tries to abide
by the new instructions, while placing orders for the new uniforms.
He said there was no reason for concern as the ministry is taking all possible measures to handle an Ebola case as per the suggestions of the World Health Organisation and others.
Patsalis also said that in the morning he was informed through the bi-communal health technical committee that the results were out for the five out of the ten suspected Middle East Respiratory Syndrome (MERS) patients in the north and that they are normal.
“This is reassuring, but we have to say that the health ministry also has an action plan in place for this possible outbreak of a MERS incident in the north,” he said.
Later in the afternoon, Turkish Cypriot health authorities announced that the test results showed that the 83-year-old woman who had travelled to Saudi Arabia and had died on Sunday did not suffer from MERS as was initially believed.
The ministry also prepared and aims to circulate a poster with instructions for travellers from high risk countries (Sierra Leone, Liberia and Guinea).