Burial teams in Sierra Leone reportedly went on strike over lack of hazard pay this week, leaving the bodies of victims of the Ebola outbreak in the country's streets.
The Sierra Leone Broadcasting Corporation first reported the strike Wednesday. Sidie Yahya Tunis, a spokesman for the country's health ministry, described the situation to The Associated Press as "very embarrassing" and insisted that money was available to pay the crews. He promised to provide more information later Wednesday.
Speaking on a radio breakfast program Wednesday, deputy health minister Madina Rahman said the strike had been "resolved," though organizers could not immediately be reached to confirm it was over.
Rahman said the dispute centered on a one-week backlog for hazard pay that had been deposited in the bank but was not given to burial teams on time.
"The health ministry is going to investigate the delay in the health workers not receiving their money," Rahman said.
Tunis said the burial teams make up a total of 600 workers organized in groups of 12.
The government was already facing criticism this week over a shipping container filled with medical gear and mattresses that has been held up at the port for more than a month. Sierra Leone is one of three West African countries, along with Liberia and Sierra Leone, hit hardest by the outbreak. The official number of confirmed Ebola cases is 2,100, with more than 600 dead, though global health officials say that the real number of both cases and deaths is likely far higher. In all, more than 3,400 people have died since the outbreak was first reported in March.
In the current outbreak, burial teams in West Africa are being asked to retrieve the bodies of people who die from Ebola in their homes and in the streets as opposed to in hospitals. They do their job clad in multiple layers of clothing, along with goggles, boots, gloves, and head coverings in order to prevent infection.
Meanwhile, in Spain, officials said a second nursing assistant has been placed under observation for Ebola in a Madrid hospital where a colleague became infected after working with two Spanish missionary priests who contracted the disease in West Africa and later died at the center. It was not known whether the second assistant also treated the two priests.
The infected nursing assistant is the first person known to catch the disease outside the outbreak zone in West Africa during the current epidemic. She was said to be in stable condition Wednesday.
The woman's husband is also under observation in the Carlos III hospital while two others, a nurse and a Spanish engineer who had traveled to Nigeria, have been given the all -clear after testing negative for the virus.
Spanish authorities are investigating how the nursing assistant became infected. They are also monitoring some 50 people who came into contact with her or also tended the two priests that died.
Health authorities in Madrid have faced accusations of not following protocol and poorly preparing health care workers for dealing with Ebola.
The Associated Press contributed to this report.