Aust Ebola aid workers putting nation 'at risk': MP

14 October, 2014

Larger-than-life political figure Bob Katter has drawn the ire of key health leaders by claiming the Cairns woman suspected of having been infected by the Ebola virus – and others like her – were putting the nation at risk as a result of their "humanitarian ambitions".

Sue-Ellen Kovack, who worked as a registered nurse for the Red Cross, recently returned to Australia after having spent a month doing aid work in Sierra Leone. The west African nation has been one of the hardest hit by an epidemic which has claimed almost 3900 lives.

Last Thursday she was admitted to hospital with a "low-grade fever" but it was announced on Friday she had tested negative.

'No compromise'

Katter's electorate of Kennedy includes the southern area of Cairns, and he slammed quarantine authorities saying it was "unbelievable and incomprehensive" a person from an Ebola-infected country could enter Australia.

"There cannot be any compromise with this," he said.

"If you want to go to one of these countries, however laudable your motivation, I am sorry but when you return to Australia, you must be quarantined for three weeks – not home quarantined."

Unnecessary hysteria

AMA President Brian Owler lashed back at Katter, saying his comments were "irresponsible and unwarranted". He also asserted the need for Australia to dedicate more resources to tackle the ongoing health crisis.

"Mr Katter should cease spreading fear and panic, and leave the commentary to the health experts who have control of the situation," he said.

"We also need to show a level of empathy for this individual, instead of creating hysteria. This woman has done everything right.

"We actually need to see more people going to provide humanitarian help, that is the only way we are going to resolve this.

"This nurse and other aid workers should be praised for their humanity, bravery, and compassion.

"They have selflessly gone to West Africa to help thousands of poor suffering people who are trapped in one of the greatest humanitarian crises facing the world in recent times," Owler said.