Australian Ebola Hospital in Sierra Leone Under Fire For Extravagant Costs

Australia’s Opposition parties have questioned why Australia’s response to the Ebola crisis in West Africa cost eight times more per patient than other organizations.

As the Ebola virus took hold in West Africa last year, the Australian government awarded Aspen Medical a 15.4-million U.S. dollar contract to run and manage a 100-bed field hospital in Sierra Leone.

Before it closed in April, the facility treated 216 patients at a total cost of 14 million U.S. dollars or 65,000 U.S. dollars per person.

Tanya Plibersek, deputy opposition leader, said on Wednesday the government and Aspen Medical needed to explain how the cost could be so high and whether the timing of the response was appropriate.

“Our response seems to have been relatively much more expensive than the approach taken, for example, by Medicins Sans Frontieres (MSF, also known as Doctors Without Borders),” Plibersek told the Australian Broadcasting Corporation (ABC) on Wednesday.

“It looks as though Australia spent about eight times per patient more than the MSF response.”

MSF spent around 63 million U.S. dollars on its Ebola response and admitted over 7,600 people into management centers in the most affected countries — Guinea, Sierra Leone and Liberia.

The average spend per patient was 8,260 U.S. dollars.

“I don’t think it’s a cheap exercise to bring an epidemic under control,” Plibersek said.

“What I am interested in is the discrepancy between the cost of delivering these health services by different organizations.”

In a letter to the Senate Select Committee on Health, Plibersek suggested an inquiry review the effectiveness of Australia’s response, including whether the efforts better helped local health systems manage future crises.

Australia resisted calls to contribute health personnel to the epidemic, before agreeing with the UK government to set up the treatment center in Sierra Leone.

MORE ABOUT: Australia | Ebola

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