At the hospital where a Spanish nurse got Ebola, workers say their training was poor

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Marco Werman: If you look at news websites in Spain today, it’s a lot like looking at American news sites a week ago - or today, to a lesser degree perhaps. Lots of articles about Spain’s first Ebola case and lots of concern about the imperfect response. Not to mention articles explaining how the Ebola virus spreads and how to stop it from doing so. That first case in Spain also happens to be the first ever case of a patient becoming infected with the virus outside of Africa. The patient is a nurse who was part of the team in Madrid that cared for two Spanish aid workers who contracted the disease in West Africa. Both of those patients eventually died. The nurse is now in the same isolation unit. Reporter Gerry Hadden in Barcelona is following the story. Gerry, what about the level of anxiety right now in Spain? Also similar to what the US has been seeing lately?


Gerry Hadden: I think so. There’s a lot of nervousness. It’s not really a sense of panic, that people might actually get sick - this woman has been quarantined. But I think it’s more of a realization that even here in Europe, where we’ve supposedly got better protocols for these sorts of emergencies, human error can occur and people can get sick.


Werman: Well, proper safety measures did not appear to have been in place in Spain. Can you tell us what people are saying about that?


Hadden: We don’t know yet how this woman became infected. What we do know is that she’s a nurse, she entered the infected patient’s room two times. Once was to remove waste materials, presumably blood or human fluids from the patient, and, at some point, she became infected. We don’t know where the breakdown in protocol was, but we do know that this summer, nurses and hospital workers at this same hospital protested because they felt they hadn’t received adequate training so far in the case of an Ebola case arriving to Spain. What they said at the time was that they had received decent training about how to protect themselves in terms of protective gear and so forth, but the more complex protocol within a hospital - for example, how do you transport a patient through public hallways, how do you sterilize or clean beds or chairs where those patients might have sat or been placed. So, again, we don’t know what went wrong here, but somewhere along the line, either protocol was breached or it wasn’t strong enough.


Werman: What precautions did Spain have in place when this diagnosis was made?


Hadden: Spain had an entire hospital designated and set up to deal with potential Ebola cases. So, there was a wing of this hospital entirely prepared to take in patients, to treat them, to try to save their lives, but more than anything else, prevent the spread of the disease, and somewhere along the lines there was a breakdown. The government has not yet said where that breakdown happened and they’re asking the media and opposition politicians who are already calling for heads to roll and for the health minister to resign. The government’s response is “Look, we’re in the middle of a crisis. Let’s get past this and then we can talk about political responsibilities.”


Werman: A lot of mainstream media in the US has been criticized for adding to the panic and not speaking straightly about what Ebola is and how to deal with it. Spain’s media, are they under a similar microscope right now?


Hadden: Yes, Spanish media is under the microscope right now, but I haven’t seen any sensationalism or fear-mongering. There’s been a lot of informational articles, in the newspapers especially, going over what Ebola is, how it’s caught, how it isn’t caught, why ordinary citizens going about their business shouldn’t really be worried that they’re going to catch it suddenly.


Werman: That’s reporter Gerry Hadden in Barcelona. Gerry, good to speak with you, thank you.


Hadden: Thank you, Marco.