Preparing to battle Ebola from hangar in Yorkshire

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IN A sterile hangar in York an exercise is being played out that is miles away from everyday life in the historic city but what is learned could help to save lives in a part of Africa gripped by Ebola.

Dressed in full protective suits, with huge helmets and a mask covering their faces army medics, are working in a mock field hospital that is simulating conditions they may come across.

A medical exercise by 22 Field Hospital at the Army Medical Services Training Centre near York

A medical exercise by 22 Field Hospital at the Army Medical Services Training Centre near York

Casualties with symptoms or who are suspected of having the Ebola virus, complete with realistic make-up and prosthetic veins, present themselves at the mock field hospital which has been created at a barracks in Strensall, York.

Today, Armed Forces Minister, Mark Francois, was in York to see preparations and said it was expected that around a hundred medics from 22 Field Hospital would travel out to Sierra Leone in the next few weeks as part of the international effort.

It is hoped the presence of 22 Field Hospital will persuade medics to help with the effort, Mr Francois said.

“I just want to say that we are very, very proud of them,” he said.

A medical exercise by 22 Field Hospital at the Army Medical Services Training Centre near York

A medical exercise by 22 Field Hospital at the Army Medical Services Training Centre near York

It has been revealed this week that a Spanish nurse has tested positive for the Ebola virus in the first known transmission outside West Africa. “When we are dealing with Ebola there’s always going to be an element of risk but they have been going through an exercise here in a mock up of the facilities that they are going to have in Sierra Leone so we can minimise the risk to our medics,” Mr Francois said.

Military personnel from 22 Field Hospital, based at Aldershot, Hampshire, have been training at the Army Medical Services training facilities in Strensall prior to their deployment.

The exercise which is expected to last two weeks has been running for thirteen hours a day simulating some of the conditions that medics will face.

An Army spokeswoman said: “They are going through all their procedures and getting attuned to wearing their personal protective equipment, working in quite hot temperatures.

A medical exercise by 22 Field Hospital at the Army Medical Services Training Centre near York

A medical exercise by 22 Field Hospital at the Army Medical Services Training Centre near York

“The training centre, which was geared up to be a replica of Camp Bastion in Afghanistan, can vary the temperature.”

Private Kate Owen, a combat medic, said the experience of donning her protective suit and working in hot conditions had been “really beneficial.”

She said: “The conditions are going to be quite arduous, but being in the Army, we are quite used to adapting to our environment.”

Mr Francois said the aim was to reassure health professionals that they could volunteer to fight Ebola knowing they would receive excellent treatment if they contracted the virus.

A medical exercise by 22 Field Hospital at the Army Medical Services Training Centre near York

A medical exercise by 22 Field Hospital at the Army Medical Services Training Centre near York

He said: “The critical point is to have a world class medical facility available in Sierra Leone that can give other medical workers from around the world comfort, that if they were to become infected, they could go there and get the best medical treatment that we can provide.”

The aim was for Save the Children to run the facility once it was functioning well, he said.

Health officials have revealed there are no plans to screen travellers entering the UK for the deadly Ebola virus.

Public Health England (PHE) said the overall risk of the virus to the UK remains “low.”

International Development Secretary Justine Greening said the Government was continuing to keep the issue of tighter travel restrictions under review after a Spanish nurse contracted Ebola, and three others placed under quarantine.