The Federal Opposition is calling for a Senate inquiry into Australia’s response to the Ebola crisis in West Africa.
Last year, the Government awarded Aspen Medical a $20-million contract to manage and run a 100-bed field hospital in Sierra Leone.
The facility treated more than 200 patients at a total cost of over $18.2 million before closing in April.
Based on government tender documents, Labor calculated the cost of treatment averaged to over $84,600 for each patient admitted to the field hospital managed by Aspen Medical.
Data released at Senate Estimates hearings on Wednesday showed:
• 216 patients were treated at the facility
• 156 patients were discharged (120 of whom never had Ebola; 36 of whom were treated for Ebola and discharged)
• 60 deaths (not necessarily all from Ebola)
Deputy opposition leader Tanya Plibersek said questions needed to be answered including why it cost so much to treat patients 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),” Ms Plibersek said.
“It looks as though Australia spent about eight times per patient more than the MSF response.”
In 2014, MSF spent approximately $82 million on its Ebola response, admitting over 7,600 people into management centres in the three main Ebola-affected countries — Guinea, Sierra Leone and Liberia.
Across those management centres, 4,755 who received treatment from the MSF were confirmed Ebola cases, and of those cases nearly 2,200 patients recovered from the virus.
On average, MSF spend $10,730 per patient.
“I don’t think it’s a cheap exercise to bring an epidemic under control,” Ms Plibersek said.
“What I am interested in is the discrepancy between the cost of delivering these health services by different organisations.”
Senate estimates revealed Liberia, Sierra Leone, the United Kingdom and the United States made government-to-government requests for Australia’s support for the Ebola epidemic.
In November 2014, Australia and the UK reached an agreement over established treatment in Sierra Leone, awarding the contract to Aspen Medical.
In a letter to the Senate Select Committee on Health, Ms Plibersek suggested an inquiry review the effectiveness of Australia’s overall response.