British Army medical experts ready to battle Ebola

British Army personnel have arrived in West Africa to help in the fight against the deadly Ebola outbreak.

Medics from 22 Field Hospital have been deployed. Picture: MoD/PA
Medics from 22 Field Hospital have been deployed. Picture: MoD/PA

A total of 91 medics from 22 Field Hospital in Aldershot will run a treatment centre in Sierra Leone, set aside for workers who risk infection.

The nurses, doctors and infectious disease consultants will be protected by 40 soldiers from 1st Battalion the Royal Regiment of Scotland, who are already in the West African country.

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The virus has killed about 4,500 people so far, with nearly all of the deaths in Liberia, Guinea and Sierra Leone.

The medics arrived ahead of the departure for Africa of the UK’s casualty vessel RFA Argus today.

The Royal Navy ship, which has a fully equipped hospital, is expected to reach the region by the end of the month with 225 military personnel onboard from a total planned deployment of 750.

Strict rules to keep the ship “sterile” include banning personnel from going ashore on leave during up to three months of deployment.

Royal Marines who leave the Argus for operations in the local community will be decontaminated upon their return.

Medics will take their temperatures twice a day and anyone who shows signs of Ebola will be flown to a British treatment clinic in Kerry Town, around 30 miles from Freetown, the capital of Sierra Leone, where the UK personnel will be based.

As part of the training, medics have been wearing full protective suits and treating simulated casualties.

In the exercise, at Strensall Barracks, York, a hangar was converted into a mock-up field hospital.

The treatment unit in Sierra Leone will contain 12 beds and run alongside a facility which will eventually be operated by Save the Children.

Lieutenant Colonel Alison McCourt, of 22 Field Hospital at Normandy Barracks in Aldershot, said: “We need to provide sufficient reassurance to healthcare workers that will encourage them to come and help defeat this disease. This unit has been the ‘vanguard’ medical regiment for the past 20 months which means we are on high readiness to deploy at short notice to anywhere in the world.

“Although this provides us with a challenge, we are perfectly suited to this kind of task.

“I firmly believe we can make a significant difference.”

Ebola survivor and volunteer nurse Will Pooley has said he is preparing to go back to West Africa to help deal with the epidemic because it is “something I need to do”.

The 29-year-old, from Eyke, Suffolk, said he knows family and friends will be worried but stressed that there was an urgent need for strong medical support to tackle the virus.