World Bulletin/News Desk
The European Union said on Friday it had reached an agreement with the United States to use a U.S. firm's air ambulances to evacuate European doctors or nurses from West Africa if they caught Ebola.
The agreement is one of a range of measures the EU is working on to try to encourage more European healthcare workers to go and care for sick people in Ebola-hit countries of West Africa by reassuring them they would quickly be evacuated for treatment in European hospitals if they contracted the disease.
Ebola, a hemorrhagic fever, has killed more than 4,000 people since March in an epidemic centered on the poor West African countries of Liberia, Guinea and Sierra Leone.
The EU and the U.S. State Department signed an agreement on Thursday on the use of specialised air ambulances operated by the U.S. carrier Phoenix Air, European Commission spokesman David Sharrock said.
The State Department has an exclusive contract with Phoenix, one of a handful of companies with the capability to transport Ebola patients.
"Thanks to this agreement, we could use Phoenix for the evacuation of serious cases of Ebola," Sharrock said. "The agreement is not restricted to a certain number of flights or patients."
"More international doctors and health workers would be willing to work on the response if they have the option of speedy evacuation in case they are injured or infected with Ebola," he said.
The European Commission, the EU's executive arm, also has an agreement with Swiss-based logistics company Kuehne & Nagel which allows it to use French company Medic'Air and possibly other companies for less severe cases, he said.
He could not say how much the agreements would cost the Commission, but said it had set aside 3 million euros ($3.8 million) for medical evacuations over the next few months.
After a slow start that drew sharp African criticism, the international response to the Ebola crisis has gathered steam with donors pledging hundreds of millions of dollars in aid.
EU foreign ministers meeting in Luxembourg on Monday will discuss how to strengthen the EU's response to the Ebola outbreak and the issue is also expected to come up at an EU summit later in the week.
The ministers aim to agree on Monday an EU approach to medical evacuation that would reassure international healthcare workers they would receive high-quality care if they caught Ebola while working in West Africa, an EU diplomat said.
Under the proposed strategy, health workers who had not yet developed full-blown Ebola symptoms would be evacuated by commercial air ambulance. If doctors advised against travel, patients could receive treatment in Africa.
Patients with severe symptoms would be evacuated by military aircraft or by Phoenix, the diplomat said.Güncelleme Tarihi: 17 Ekim 2014, 22:45