First Transport Aircraft to Evacuate Patients Inaugurated

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President Ellen Johnson Sirleaf has inaugurated the first transport aircraft specially designed to evacuate patients with infectious diseases to other locations where they can receive treatment, and described it as the “first of its kind.”

According to an Executive Mansion release, President Sirleaf made the statement on her arrival early Friday morning at the Roberts International Airport from Marrakech, Morocco where she had gone to participate in the United Nations Framework on Climate Change COP 22.

President Sirleaf expressed delight over such a medical facility capable of evacuating patients with infectious diseases to where treatment is available especially in the aftermath of the fragilities exposed by the Ebola outbreak. She thanked the donor for partnering with Liberia in such a magnificent way.

As cooperation with Liberia during and after the Ebola epidemic remains exemplary, Liberia was selected for the first test flight of a medical aircraft.

On November 18, the U.S. Department of State demonstrated the U.S. government’s state-of-the-art Containerized Bio-containment System (CBCS) used to facilitate the air transport of critically ill patients who need to be completely isolated from others. The event took place during an exercise named

“Tranquil Surge,” as the CBCS returned from Monrovia to the University of Nebraska Medical Center on a retrofitted 747 aircraft.

In his introductory statement, Deputy Minister of Health for Disease Surveillance and Epidemic and the Chair of Incident Management System Tolbert Nyenswah said Liberia was chosen for tis demonstration because of the impressive progress that it has made in detecting and diagnosing an infectious disease (Ebola) and the strong and effective collaboration between the Liberian government and the US government. He revealed that Liberian government public health professionals including himself, participated in the exercise.

Minister Nyenswah noted that the best practices for medical evacuation continues to evolve and this new bio-containment system will be able to safely transport 4 to 6 critically ill patients, with illnesses that may pose a serious public health threat, by air across the world. He said previous systems could only transport one patient at a time and involved flying the plane from its base in Atlanta, Georgia, to Liberia and back to the United States.

“Three visiting Americans acting as patients will be loaded onto the plane in Liberia and transported to a specialized infectious disease treatment center in Omaha, Nebraska, using the special isolation units that form the core of the containerized bio-containment system,” Minister Nyenswah disclosed.

He said it is important to recognize that there are no known active cases of Ebola in Liberia at this time, and that the exercise will help to ensure vigilance and preparedness for any new outbreak.

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