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Health workers who fought Ebola in Madrid visit the European Parliament

Press Release

Thursday 13 Nov 2014

MEP Lola Sánchez Caldentey, MEP Nessa Childers and the EPSU (European federation of Public Service Unions) have jointly promoted and organised the visit of health workers of Carlos III – La Paz hospital of Madrid that fought Ebola.

In a globalised world, the Ebola epidemic is having a massive impact on the population of West Africa, and it is taking an especially high toll amongst health professionals dealing with the illness. This high impact on health professionals is critical, and it makes it difficult to find the necessary people to tackle the illness in West Africa and beyond.

On top of all that, austerity measures applied in Europe in the last five years have created ideal conditions for any virus or epidemic to spread due to the incapacity of health providers to reassure the public that the danger will be kept away. The case of Teresa Romero, the first Ebola patient in Europe, a nurse working at a hospital in Madrid, Spain, is an illustration of that.

The workers in the Carlos III- La Paz hospital in Madrid who fought Ebola alongside Teresa Romero can explain their struggle against the plans of closure of the very units that had to be preserved to fight Ebola or any other viral problem that can take place in any Southern European country of due to the worsening of public health conditions

MEP Nessa Childers said: “The long-term context of this crisis is also an indictment of failed development policies carried out by the developed world. The World Bank is branding the international response so far a ‘miserable failure’ but they too must take responsibility for the consequences of their lending policies, in tandem with a push for healthcare privatisation and user-fees.”

“Somewhere between 15 and 20% of all victims claimed by the Ebola epidemic were healthcare workers on the ground. This has led the EPSU to write to the World Labour Organisation with regard to the appalling conditions healthcare workers, many of whom volunteered to work on the ground, are facing.

“The case of the Spanish nurse who became the first European Ebola patient is a stark example of the dangers of austerity to the life and health of our citizens. Her hospital’s specialised infectious diseases had been dismantled just months before the incident due to cuts in healthcare services. To – literally – add insult to injury, she was accused of incompetence and of lying by politicians, when the workers actually lacked even basic protective clothing.”

MEP Lola Sánchez Caldentey, from PODEMOS said: “The wage cuts, the cuts in the budgets for safety devices and forced privatization, strongly contested by professionals and public health workers, are to be held the ultimate responsible for the infection of Teresa Romero as it has created the ideal conditions for mistakes due to lack of training, uncertainty at work and fear of dismissal”.

Jan Willem Goudriaan, EPSU General Secretary, said: “The best way to combat the spread of those illnesses is to listen to what the workers at the front line have to say. Then tackle the policies that create the conditions for outbreaks like Ebola to happen by. working on real prevention and public investment in health”.

The vist of the workers aims to give them a voice with European and Brussels-based media as well as to give MEPs a chance to talk with health professionals who worked on the very places where Ebola was fought. They will tell us the reality of the training that they were provided and what their demands, as health professionals, were.