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‘Tiny Iceland’ preparing for Ebola in a globalized world

‘Tiny Iceland’ preparing for Ebola in a globalized world

Title: ‘Tiny Iceland’ preparing for Ebola in a globalized world
Author: Gunnlaugsson, Geir   orcid.org/0000-0002-6674-2862
Hauksdóttir, Íris   orcid.org/0000-0002-0462-4756
Bygbjerg, Ib   orcid.org/0000-0001-9100-2754
Britt Pinkowski Tersbøl   orcid.org/0000-0001-8260-1317
Date: 2019-05-07
Language: English
Scope: 1597451
University/Institute: Háskóli Íslands
University of Iceland
School: Félagsvísindasvið (HÍ)
School of Social Sciences (UI)
Department: Félagsfræði-, mannfræði- og þjóðfræðideild (HÍ)
Faculty of Sociology, Anthropology and Folkloristics (UI)
Series: Global Health Action;12(1)
ISSN: 1654-9716
1654-9880 (eISSN)
DOI: 10.1080/16549716.2019.1597451
Subject: Communicable diseases; Emergency responders; Emerging; Fear; Global health; Prevention and control; Public policy; Qualitative evaluation; Farsóttir; Faraldsfræði; Heilbrigðismál; Stefnumótun; Sóttvarnir; Eigindlegar rannsóknir
URI: https://hdl.handle.net/20.500.11815/2085

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Geir Gunnlaugsson, Íris Eva Hauksdóttir, Ib Christian Bygbjerg & Britt Pinkowski Tersbøl (2019) ‘Tiny Iceland’ preparing for Ebola in a globalized world, Global Health Action, 12:1, DOI: 10.1080/16549716.2019.1597451


Background: The Ebola epidemic in West Africa caused global fear and stirred up worldwide preparedness activities in countries sharing borders with those affected, and in geographically far-away countries such as Iceland. Objective: To describe and analyse Ebola preparedness activities within the Icelandic healthcare system, and to explore the perspectives and experiences of managers and frontline health workers. Methods: A qualitative case study, based on semi-structured interviews with 21 staff members in the national Ebola Treatment Team, Emergency Room at Landspitali University Hospital, and managers of the response team. Results: Contextual factors such as culture and demography influenced preparedness, and contributed to the positive state of mind of participants, and ingenuity in using available resources for preparedness. While participants believed they were ready to take on the task of Ebola, they also had doubts about the chances of Ebola ever reaching Iceland. Yet, factors such as fear of Ebola and the perceived stigma associated with caring for a potentially infected Ebola patient, influenced the preparation process and resulted in plans for specific precautions by staff to secure the safety of their families. There were also concerns about the teamwork and lack of commitment by some during training. Being a ‘tiny’ nation was seen as both an asset and a weakness in the preparation process. Honest information sharing and scenario-based training contributed to increased confidence amongst participants in the response plans. Conclusions: Communication and training were important for preparedness of health staff in Iceland, in order to receive, admit, and treat a patient suspected of having Ebola, while doubts prevailed on staff capacity to properly do so. For optimal preparedness, likely scenarios for future global security health threats need to be repeatedly enacted, and areas plagued by poverty and fragile healthcare systems require global support.


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