…is a concern for the health service in England. There’s been lots of planning for the possible/eventual contraction of Ebola by a UK citizen.

It was a very surreal moment when I heard on the news, that if there was any concern about Ebola, and somebody had phoned their doctor or out of hours service, the case would be passed to the emergency services to deal with.

“Good”, I thought, “they’re the kiddies to deal with this”. Then I realised – I’M THE BLOODY EMERGENCY SERVICES!!

But it’s ok; our ambulance trust promptly released instruction on what we are to do when faced with a possible case.

We’ve been provided with Tyvek suits (yes, the ones worn by decorators to protect them from paint, not lethal bloodborne pathogens) and paper masks similar to those worn on a building site to protect one from brick dust.

As you can imagine, ambulance staff were rather worried that if the people in Africa with the pressurised suites and breathing apparatus were still contracting the disease, what protection would a paper suit afford us?!?!

The Trust then upgraded to filtered masks, which is kind. They have also ensured every operational member of staff is trained in the fitting of the mask and an assessment carried out. The rules of the assessment are as follows:

  • If you have a beard, it is in automatic fail.
  • If you fit the mask incorrectly twice in a row, it is a fail.
  • If you fit the mask and can still smell/taste the testing agent in the room, it is a fail.
  • If you fail the assessment, it does not exclude you from still being sent to a possible Ebola case.

Let me reiterate that last point – If you fail the mask assessment, for something as simple as having a beard (which many of our male employees do….and some female ones but that’s a different matter), you will still be sent to a potential case. Good.

So, although I’m sure the media are hyping up the disease more than is actually necessary at the moment, I’d like to wish all my fellow, bearded, ambulance colleagues – both male and female – all the very best of luck while holding their breath during the treatment of their patient. Lovely.

(My mum’s going to be furious at reading this!!)

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