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Donna Collins, 48, a mother of four from Whangarei says as a nurse and midwife she has a passion for helping people.
“I’d like to think if the tables were turned, other countries would come to our assistance. I feel 100% supported and safe, this kind of work is nothing new to me. I deal with bodily fluids on a daily basis and I am trained and experienced in following proper procedure.”
Sharon Mackie, 45, a health coordinator for an NGO in Wellington, says she is keen to use her skills and experience to help stop the disease spreading further.
“It’s what I’ve trained 18 months for. This is what the Red Cross is set up to do. There needs to be a global humanitarian response because the local health system does not have the skills or resources to cope.”
Their deployment was prompted by a request to the International Federation of Red Cross and Red Crescent Societies (IFRC) by the government of Sierra Leone and the World Health Organisation (WHO).
New Zealand Red Cross secretary general Tony Paine says the Kiwi nurses are courageous, committed and are true humanitarians.
“We’ve been asked for help and our nurses have put their hands up. They are well trained, experienced, and prepared. They have an opportunity to really make a difference to people’s lives and I am proud of them.”
Ms Mackie and Ms Collins will join an emergency response team made up of Red Cross health professionals from Spain, Australia, Norway and the United Kingdom, which will set up an isolation ward and provide clinical care to infected patients in Kenema, the worst-hit area of Sierra Leone.
Critical shortages of local medical staff have left Kenema Hospital under-staffed, making it difficult to contain the disease.
The Ebola outbreak in West Africa has been declared an international health emergency by WHO. A total of 1711 cases have been reported, with 932 deaths.
New Zealand Red Cross has taken all precautions to ensure the protection of its staff. The nurses will wear full personal protection equipment, from overalls and goggles, to two pairs of gloves, aprons and gumboots.
On arrival in Sierra Leone they will complete a four-day specialised training programme before working in Kenema Hospital for three weeks. They will then spend three weeks in quarantine in the capital Freetown before returning to New Zealand.
The New Zealand Ministry of Health has confirmed it is satisfied with New Zealand Red Cross quarantine measures and that the nurses will not present any risk to New Zealand.
To date, no Red Cross personnel responding to Ebola in West Africa have contracted the virus.
IFRC has been responding to Ebola in West Africa since March this year. It has allocated one million Swiss francs just in Sierra Leone to mobilise Red Cross personnel. The last time such an amount was released was for the response to the Indian Ocean Tsunami in 2004.
Please see the attached World Health Organisation FAQ’s on the Ebola virus.