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Indian doctors in Nigeria Ebola row free to leave, says hospital

Source: Thomson Reuters Foundation - Tue, 12 Aug 2014 18:30 GMT
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A female immigration officer uses an infrared digital laser thermometer to take the temperature of a female passenger at the Nnamdi Azikiwe International Airport in Abuja August 11, 2014. REUTERS/Afolabi Sotunde
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(Updates throughout to make clear there are no known Ebola cases in Abuja)

NEW DELHI (Thomson Reuters Foundation) - Four Indian doctors in Nigeria say they are being forced to treat cases of Ebola against their will and have accused their employers of taking away their passports to stop them leaving the country, the Hindustan Times reported on Tuesday.

However, the hospital in the Nigerian capital Abuja where the doctors are working denied the claims, pointing out there were no cases of Ebola in the city.

The doctors said they were ordered not to leave the Primus Hospital despite their fear of contracting the deadly disease, the newspaper reported.

"We haven’t been provided with any security kits. Our passports have been impounded. When we spoke to the Indian High Commission, we were asked to come to the mission. But we were stopped by guards from leaving the hospital," one doctor was quoted as saying.

He said the Indian doctors were forced to work after local physicians – who have been on strike – refused to come back to work.

There are no known cases of Ebola in Abuja. The country's commercial capital Lagos has 10 confirmed cases of Ebola and two patients have died. Africa's most populous nation has declared a national emergency over the outbreak.

The hospital authorities told the CNN-IBN television channel that the doctors were not being forced to stay. 

"These doctors were treating 25 ICU (intensive care) patients and they wanted to leave all this and wanted to go to India. I told them to work on humanitarian grounds. We have not seized their passports. I told them if we are doctors, we can't abandon the patients. Ebola is a global issue but there is no case in Abuja," said Sunny Ukachukwuu, Primus Hospital's director.

Government sources told the Hindustan Times that the situation has now been resolved with the intervention of the Indian High Commission in Nigeria. The doctors have agreed to work a few more days and then return to India.

The death toll from the world's worst outbreak of Ebola has climbed to 1,013, according to figures from the World Health Organization which has called its spread an international health emergency.

There are 40,000 Indians living in Nigeria and another 4,700 in the other affected West African countries - Guinea, Sierra Leone and Liberia.

Indian authorities fear a return of many of its citizens due to the outbreak will increase the risk of the disease being imported into the country and are introducing measures to screen and track travellers from the four nations. A hotline has also been opened and has reportedly received 200 calls in two days, mainly from people asking about the symptoms of the disease.

A man who returned to India from Nigeria over the weekend displaying symptoms of upper respiratory tract infection has tested negative for Ebola, the health ministry said on Monday.

 

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