Australia is contracting a private company to staff and operate an Ebola treatment centre in Sierra Leone, Prime Minister Tony Abbot has said. He said Australia would commit A$20m (£11m; $17m) to a 100-bed treatment centre being built by the UK.
But he ruled out sending government health workers – most workers would be hired locally with international staff likely to include some Australians. The Ebola outbreak in West Africa has killed some 5,000 people. Most of the deaths have been in Guinea, Liberia and Sierra Leone. Australia has been criticised for its response to the crisis, which has included the suspension of entry visas for visitors from Ebola-affected countries, as well as a refusal to send health workers to fight the epidemic.
Mr Abbott had wanted other governments to agree to evacuate any of its medical workers who contracted the disease, before sending staff. At a press conference on Tuesday, Mr Abbott said the UK had agreed to treat any Australian working in Ebola-impacted areas of West Africa as if they were UK citizens. “We are not sending people over,” he said. “We are ensuring there is a 100-bed treatment centre staffed and run in Sierra Leone. Aspen, an Australian health provider, is doing it.”