EDITORIAL: It’s better to be prepared

The hope is that Ebola does not arrive here, but if it does, we need to ensure both residents and hospital staff are safe

There are going to be some residents in B.C. who question why local health authorities are allocating so many resources into Ebola response efforts.

How can the disease – that’s infecting and killing thousands in western Africa – show up here?

It’s a valid question, especially when resources are stretched thin already.

While doctors, politicians and others have been quick to suggest that a mass outbreak could conceivably happen here – or even, that one is unavoidable – critics have been less concerned with the few Ebola cases which have sprouted up in the west, responding, somewhat cynically, that no disease can be considered a pandemic if you can still refer to all the victims by name.

But better to be safe than sorry, especially as threats have started trickling in, however slowly.

There have been confirmed cases in Texas, while several Canadians across the country have been tested for Ebola-like symptoms. A cruise-ship passenger was also quarantined and tested for the disease, but thankfully cleared.

We live in a world that is increasingly small, with local residents travelling well beyond our communities for any number of reasons. It’s entirely reasonable to think that someone from here may be in Western Africa or in Texas, or somewhere else where the threat is real.

As a result, local authorities have to be prepared for someone with Ebola-like symptoms to walk into a hospital, which is why Surrey Memorial Hospital has been named as the region’s Ebola headquarters, of sorts. Any patient with symptoms of Ebola will be isolated there.

There are concerns with that, too, however.

The B.C. Nurses Union has raised alarm bells about the health authority’s ability to properly and safely handle a patient who may have Ebola. More specifically, the union is concerned that the new system at SMH puts its nurses at risk.

Already, the union claims, at least one case of a suspected Ebola patient has been mishandled.

And while Fraser Health’s executive medical director for infection prevention and control insists otherwise – saying anxiety and misunderstanding are to blame for the current concerns – it is up to health authorities and the provincial government to keep safe those in charge of helping others, namely nurses and other hospital employees.

Obviously, the hope is that Ebola does not arrive here, but if it does, all of us need to ensure we are prepared and stay safe.

It’s a co-operative approach, and it starts at the top.