Spanish health trade union leader: We only had 15 minutes of training on Ebola


Study participant receives GSK's candidate Ebola vaccine. [NIAID/Flickr]

The Madrid regional government has not given health personnel enough training to deal with Ebola properly, including the Spanish nurse Teresa Romero, who is now the first person in the world to contract the virus outside Africa, says Juan Carlos Mejías. Romero was in contact with one of two ill Spanish priests who died of the disease in Madrid’s Carlos III Hospital.

Juan Carlos Mejías is the leader of SATSE, the main trade union in Spain’s health sector, representing 100,000 members. Mejías spoke with EURACTIV Spain’s Fernando Heller.

Did the health personnel in the Carlos III Hospital have enough training on Ebola and how to deal with infected patients?

Not at all. We just had a 15-minute-long training on Ebola. Last April, when we had the first suspected Ebola case in La Paz hospital (Madrid), things started to move very slowly. People from the “disease prevention unit” there gave us a short speech, of around 15 minutes, on how to deal with Ebola cases. That was all. Of course, we complained.

But, at least, you got the basic information on the disease, right?

For these kind of pathologies, it is not enough to receive some written information, like leaflets or brochures, something that we, by the way, did not have. You need a very complex and specific training. In particular, the use of the protective equipment and the special suits. People need to be trained almost like NASA astronauts! There is a specific protocol to be followed, in particular, the sequence for putting on and removing the equipment. You need almost 45 minutes to take the suit off (one of the most sensitive and dangerous moments, according to the protocol). But we didn’t have the right training in the Carlos III Hospital at that time (last April).

Ramos said she followed all the appropriate protocols when entering the room of an Ebola patient at Carlos III Hospital, but she acknowledged that she may have made a mistake when removing her protective suit. Do you believe this was a “human error”?

I don’t want to speculate about that, until we have the final results of the ongoing investigations (with the support of The European Centre for Disease Prevention and Control). But in any case, before making any premature conclusions about a possible human error, you need to have solid scientific evidence. It is very easy to blame the health personnel in the first place.

What are the next steps?

We demand a complete and thorough investigation into the circumstances of the infection. We shall not rest until they (the Spanish health authorities) give us a full explanation of what happened with our colleague. And of course we will continue to demonstrate outside La Paz and Carlos III hospitals, to demand full clarification on how she caught Ebola, and demanding better security measures and training to prevent future cases.

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