According to an article published yesterday by the Washington Times, the State Department is quietly planning to bring foreign Ebola patients to the U.S. for treatment. An internal State Dept. document reveals that the U.S. will agree to allow Ebola-infected doctors and other medical workers into the country for treatment, arguing that is the only way to convince other nations to send medical teams to West Africa to help combat the dreaded disease.
Some countries “are implicitly or explicitly waiting for medevac assurances” before they will agree to send their own medical teams to join U.S. and U.N. aid workers on the ground, according to the Times, which has reviewed the document. The article says the document argues that other nations will be less likely to send medical teams to West Africa unless the U.S. promises to treat any medical workers who contract the disease.
“The United States needs to show leadership and act as we are asking others to act by admitting certain non-citizens into the country for medical treatment for Ebola Virus Disease (EVD) during the Ebola crisis,” says the four-page memo. The document was authored by Robert Sorenson, deputy director of the office of international health and biodefense.
The Times says the memo states that the U.S. would prefer the patients be treated in Europe, but that there are some cases in which the U.S. is “the logical treatment destination for non-citizens.”
According to the Times, the document has been shared with members of Congress, many of whom have expressed concerns over bringing Ebola-infected patients into the U.S. for treatment. The Times also says many lawmakers are “nervous about the [Obama] administration’s handling of the Ebola outbreak.” The memo also details the estimated cost of the treatment, with transportation costs at $200,000 and treatment at $300,000 per patient.
However, the Times article also says that an unnmamed State Department official said Tuesday evening that the plan had been scrapped for now. “There is no policy of the U.S. government to allow entry of non-U.S. citizen Ebola-infected to the United States. There is no consideration in the State Department of changing that policy,” the official said.
Another official said the department is considering using American aircraft equipped to handle Ebola cases to transport noncitizens to other countries. “We have discussed allowing other countries to use our medevac capabilities to evacuate their own citizens to their home countries or third-countries, subject to reimbursement and availability,” the second department official said.
Given the track record of the Obama administration, and its history of flip-flopping on key issues, it is hard to speculate on whether the plan will be carried out, or if it has indeed been tabled for the time being. The Times said a call to the number listed for Mr. Sorenson was not returned Tuesday.