As the Ebola outbreak in West Africa continues to worsen, the federal government is doubling its financial commitment to help get the situation under control.
Federal Health Minister Rona Ambrose announced Friday that the government will contribute an additional $30-million in aid that will go directly to the United Nations to fund treatment centres, protective equipment, educational efforts on the ground and other important measures. Up until now, Canada had contributed $35-million to the World Health Organization, United Nations and other groups working to contain the outbreak.
The announcement comes amid growing worry over the virus in Canada following the news this week that a second health-care worker in Texas had tested positive for the virus. Two nurses who had cared for a man with Ebola contracted the virus, suggesting that there were serious gaps in the hospital's ability and readiness to contain the deadly virus. There have been no confirmed cases of the virus in Canada, but some of the country's leading nursing unions and organizations have expressed concerns that they do not feel adequately prepared should cases arrive here.
Concerns are also spreading beyond health-care institutions. Dr. Gregory Taylor, Canada's chief public health officer, said during a news conference on Friday that an Air Canada pilot had refused to take on board a blood sample that was to be tested for the Ebola virus. The Public Health Agency of Canada managed to resolve the issue with Air Canada, but the incident speaks to the fear and even paranoia that goes hand in hand with the deadly virus.
Ms. Ambrose said she has spoken to Canadian nursing organizations about their concerns and that the government is committed to helping health-care workers feel prepared in the event Ebola cases are confirmed here. Dr. Taylor is also urging hospitals across the country to do test-runs to ensure staff understands what to do if an individual with a suspected case of Ebola arrives.
Earlier this week, the UN launched a global appeal for more funds to help control the Ebola crisis. Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon has asked the international community for $1-billion, saying it is necessary to reduce the rate of transmission by Dec. 1. Western countries have faced extensive criticism for the slow response to the Ebola outbreak, which began in April. Former UN secretary-general Kofi Annan told the BBC this week that he is "bitterly disappointed" by the global response and said the international community only sprung into action when Ebola cases were confirmed in Europe and the United States.
The death toll in the Ebola outbreak has risen to 4,546 out of 9,191 known cases in Guinea, Liberia and Sierra Leone, the WHO said on Friday.
Of Canada's total $65-million commitment, only about $5-million has been spent so far, Ms. Ambrose said. The government had previously announced that it would spend $30-million a few weeks ago and there has not been time to deploy all of the money, she said. Because the latest $30-million announcement will go directly to the UN's efforts, it probably will be spent quickly, she said.