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.
According to an Executive Mansion release, President Sirleaf described the aircraft as “First of its kind.” She made the statement upon arrival from Marrakech, Morocco early Friday morning at the Roberts International Airport in Lower Margibi County where she had gone to participate in the U.N. Framework on Climate Change COP 22 meeting. President Sirleaf expressed delight over such medical facility, especially in the aftermath of the fragilities exposed by the Ebola outbreak. She thanked the generous 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 airplane specially designed to transport patients with infectious diseases to other locations where they can receive treatment. 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, titled “Tranquil Surge”, as the CBCS returns from Monrovia, en route to the University of Nebraska Medical Center on a retrofitted 747 aircraft. In his introductory statement, Liberia’s Deputy Minister of Health for Disease Surveillance and Epidemic and Chair, Incident Management System, Tolbert Nyenswah, said Liberia was chosen for this exercise because of the impressive progress that she has made in detecting and diagnosing infectious disease and the strong and effective collaboration between the Liberian and U.S. governments. Minister Nyenswah noted that the best practices for medical evacuation continue 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 because, according to him, the exercise will involve flying the plane from its base in Atlanta, Georgia to Liberia and back to the United States. “In Liberia, 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 explained. He said it is important to recognize that there are no known active cases of Ebola in Liberia at this time and this exercise will help to ensure vigilance and preparedness for any new outbreak.