Ebola virus disease (18.09.2014)

Written on the 18 September 2014

Ms CROZIER (Southern Metropolitan) -- My question is to the Minister for Health, Mr Davis.

I ask: can the minister update the house on Victoria's preparedness against the Ebola virus disease?


Hon. D. M. DAVIS (Minister for Health) -- I thank the member for her question and note the importance of the topic.

We have all become very aware of the significance of the Ebola virus and the impact it is having, particularly in certain parts of Africa. That is highlighted by the steps taken by the United States in the last few days to ensure that there is greater support for those people in Africa. The impact that Ebola is having cannot be doubted given the significance of what we have all seen. Equally, other nations, including Australia, ought not imagine that we are immune from Ebola cases and the risks they pose.

For that reason Victoria, along with other Australian jurisdictions, is working hard to ensure that our preparations are done and that we have put in place every possible reasonable step to enable us as a community to manage a case, or indeed a suspected case, or cases of Ebola virus disease.

The chief health officer, Dr Rosemary Lester, has today updated an existing alert. The alert provides a link to the Victorian Ebola Virus Disease Response Plan. A great deal of work has been put into this plan. It works in synergy with the commonwealth plan, and chief health officers and other officials have been working over recent months to put in place a satisfactory national response. The plan outlines the exact actions that will be taken by the Department of Health, commonwealth border agencies, Ambulance Victoria and any health service, particularly the two hospitals that will receive any suspected cases.

The Royal Melbourne Hospital has been designated as the facility for assessment and management of patients suspected of having a viral haemorrhagic fever such as Ebola virus disease. In the case of children under 16 the Royal Children's Hospital will be the relevant hospital. However, all of our health services around the state have participated in the development of this plan, and I pay tribute to the work done, particularly by a number of our key infectious diseases specialists.

We have seen a suspected case in Queensland in recent days. It turned out not to be a case; nonetheless, it highlighted the need for this preparedness.

Professor Mike Richards, an infectious diseases specialist at the Royal Melbourne, has played a significant role in equipping the state in this area, and the viral haemorrhagic fever plan is well placed to handle cases that may come forward. Information under the plan will be issued to major metropolitan, regional and other services, and stakeholders, including general practitioners.

As I say, this is an important set of work that has been done by the chief health officer and her team. It outlines simple steps for front-line clinicians and the steps they should take if somebody presents with a suspected case. There are border control measures that ensure that there are questionnaires in place for people returning from affected countries, and Melbourne Airport is prepared to respond in such cases.

Obviously testing will be an important part of this, and the new Peter Doherty Institute, opposite Melbourne University and near the Royal Melbourne Hospital, is taking a lead in that nationally. It is the first facility of its kind as an infectious diseases institute for infection and immunity and will play a very significant role into the future.

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