Why the US has been too slow to respond to Ebola outbreak
The United States has been slow to deploy the military’s “end-to-end” response to the Ebola outbreak, a senior US general told a congressional panel, and its response to civilian healthcare workers has been far behind the pace of the international response.
“This is the greatest challenge we face in our country,” Lt.
Gen. Stephen Townsend, the deputy commandant of US forces in Europe, told a Senate committee on Thursday.
“We have a long way to go, but this is where we need to be, in order to make sure we are doing what we can to provide the maximum amount of support to the health care professionals,” he said.
He said the Pentagon is working to address the logistical challenges and logistics challenges posed by providing healthcare to civilians, but has so far failed to take advantage of the medical training that is required for healthcare workers to handle the infection.
“There’s been a lack of training, a lack, a really serious lack of coordination between the medical community and the military,” Townsend said.
“So it’s really, really hard to do this, to get the medical personnel and the training that they need to respond effectively to this challenge.”
In the Senate hearing, Townsend said that the Pentagon’s ability to provide military assistance to civilian health care workers, who are in a critical position to respond, has been limited by “a lack of resources” for the military.
In a letter to Congress in October, Townsend wrote that he has been working to ensure that military medical personnel have “the best equipment, training and expertise to provide safe, effective, effective and effective healthcare to the American people”.
“Our nation is on the verge of a national emergency,” Townsend wrote, referring to the ongoing outbreak of the virus in West Africa.
“It is imperative that the US Government take the steps necessary to ensure timely, effective responses to the outbreak of this devastating pandemic.”
In November, the Pentagon announced it was hiring more than 100 healthcare workers and contractors to help care for the country’s roughly 8,000 healthcare workers infected with Ebola.
The United States, however, has not deployed a single medical professional to West Africa, despite its role in the Ebola response.
The Pentagon’s role in healthcare is now in dispute after an Ebola nurse who contracted the virus was allowed to return to the United States after being held in quarantine for two weeks.
But in a letter sent to Congress on Wednesday, Townsend suggested that the Obama administration may be able to find other ways to help the health workers, such as providing healthcare for civilians.
“While we have the resources to support the civilian health sector, it will take time to establish a robust civilian healthcare response, given the limited capacity of the healthcare system in the United Kingdom and many other countries,” Townsend added.
“At this point, the best way to support civilian healthcare is through direct engagement with healthcare workers in the field.”