WASHINGTON – The U.S. military response to the outbreak of Ebola in Liberia continues to progress, with facilities expected to be fully operational next week, Pentagon Press Secretary Navy Rear Adm. John Kirby said today.
Speaking during a State Department news conference, Kirby provided an update on Operation United Assistance.
“Our forces on the ground in Liberia continue to make progress in setting up infrastructure and facilities to support the international response,” he said.
“Setup has been complete on the 25-bed hospital, and we expect it to be fully operational with U.S. Public Health Service medical workers taking responsibility for that unit next week, Kirby said. “Construction continues on the Ebola treatment facilities, with the first expected to be completed by the end of the month.”
Mobile medical labs
In the interim, Kirby said, personnel from the U.S. Naval Medical Research Center continue to operate three mobile medical labs, which provide 24-hour turnaround results on samples, with more than 1,200 total samples having been processed to date. The admiral emphasized that no U.S. military personnel will be providing direct patient care to the local population.
“We’re focused on four lines of effort, and only four lines effort: command and control, logistics support, training and engineering.”
Additionally, Kirby said, an air bridge has been set up in Senegal to help logistics flow, because some areas have no roads, and many roads that do exist are inundated with mud. “We now have Ospreys that are helping speed the delivery of resources, supplies and troops to some of these very remote areas where these labs are being set up,” he said.
Avoiding overburdening infrastructure
The admiral also noted the Defense Department recognizes the need not to overburden the already burdened infrastructure in Liberia.
“We’ve been asked why there aren’t greater troop numbers in Liberia at a faster rate,” he said, “but there’s only so much impact that Liberia and the infrastructure can take from the U.S. military. We just can’t go in there lock, stock and barrel without thinking about the impact on their own infrastructure.
“So we have to do this carefully, in a measured, deliberate way,” he continued. “But we believe that the kinds of capabilities that we’re contributing in terms of … logistics and training are exactly the kinds of things we’re really good at doing in an expeditionary environment.”