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Public servants demand Ebola isolation units be set up in Canberra

Public servants want isolation units set up in Canberra to quarantine government officials returning from Ebola-stricken regions of Africa.

The demand comes as the Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade confirmed its top doctor had visited Australian diplomatic posts in African nations hit by the epidemic to "discuss key issues arising from the outbreak."

The departmental staffers accuse their bosses of "dereliction of duty and failing to show respect to employees and the Australian public" by not being upfront about plans to cope if an Australian official contracts the disease.

Workplace delegates have suggested luxury apartments at Canberra's upmarket Kingston Foreshore be rented to keep officials returning from Ebola hotspots in isolation until they are confirmed as all-clear of the infection.

Leaked internal documents show growing disquiet among the department's public servants and union delegates are now demanding that departmental bosses brief staff on contingency and emergency plans in the face of the outbreak.

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The latest Ebola epidemic is the worst outbreak of the deadly disease on record and has killed more than 4000 people, mostly in the west African nations of Liberia, Sierra Leone and Guinea.

There have been several cases of infection among western aid workers, medics and missionaries.

One of the department's Community and Public Sector Union delegates, Christopher Lang, has demanded the department's bosses level with staff about what they are doing to mitigate the threat.

Mr Lang said public servants engaged in aid work in Africa, as well as diplomatic activities,  brought them into the Ebola danger zone.

 "At a minimum, management must share with employees its contingency arrangements to mitigate adverse impacts of Ebola risk."

The union delegate said management was failing its duty of care to the department's employees if it maintained its silence.

 "Silence on this front indicates dereliction of duty and failing to show respect to employees and the Australian public in neglecting to fulfil its obligation to take action to protect employees."

Mr Lang cited the case of  German UN doctor from the disease.

"The significance of this event is that the UN health care worker died despite being under the 'best of' German care," Mr Lang wrote.

"The response from management is a non-response in terms of the risks colleagues face daily in travel and work in the country."

There is also concern about contact by Australian expatriates with local workers at diplomatic installations in Africa and worries that the disease might be spread by the system of cleaning toilets at the department's Canberra buildings.

Senior department executive Arthur Spyrou said: "I can advise that the department is working directly with posts in the region to address the issues arising from the outbreak.

"The senior departmental doctor has also visited relevant posts to discuss key issues arising from the outbreak. "This work is ongoing."

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