Thirteen people who came into contact with an Ebola-stricken nursing assistant are now in isolation at the Carlos III Hospital in Madrid. But as the hospital works to monitor and isolate those cases while also treating the infected patient, some members of the facility's staff are refusing to work, out of concern that the safety conditions there are inadequate.
Speaking to Spain's El Pais, Elvira González of the Union of Nursing Technicians (known as SAE) said "there are members of staff who are canceling their contracts so that they don’t have to enter [rooms with Ebola cases]."
Although González did not give exact figures, she said that some health-care professionals have resigned from their posts and others are refusing assignments involving treatment of anyone diagnosed with or under observation for Ebola unless safety measures improve.
"The mood in the hospital is going down," an individual with knowledge of the situation told The Washington Post in an e-mail.
That mood was clear in a Friday confrontation between health care workers at the hospital and Prime Minister Mariano Rajoy, who visited the facility to thank staff members for their work and speak publicly about the case.
A group of assembled nurses were filmed throwing their examination gloves at the Prime Minister's car as he left the hospital after his remarks, yelling "go away" and “useless cowards,” according to Sky News and the Telegraph.
Amid mounting concerns over protective gear and protocols and increased criticism of the national health minister, the Spanish government on Friday announced the creation of a special committee to manage the Ebola situation, El Pais reported. It will be led by Deputy Prime Minister Soraya Sáenz de Santamaría.
Late on Thursday, seven people who had come into contact with nursing assistant Teresa Romero Ramos voluntarily went into isolation at Carlos III, the Guardian reported. Among them: Two hairdressers who had contact with Ramos before she was admitted to the hospital with symptoms of an Ebola infection.
A spokeswoman said a total of 14 people -- including Ramos and her husband -- are now in the isolation unit at the Madrid hospital, Reuters reported.
Other than Ramos, none of the patients in isolation are currently showing symptoms consistent with Ebola.
"Our first priority is Teresa Romero -- she is the only person that we know has the illness," Prime Minister Mariano Rajoy said outside the hospital Friday, according to Reuters.
Ramos, who has has been hospitalized since Sunday, tested positive for the virus on Monday, becoming the first confirmed case of Ebola transmission outside of Africa.
On Friday, a hospital official said Ramos was "stable," hours after authorities described her condition as critical, according to the Associated Press.
It remains unclear exactly how the sanitary technician became infected while working with a priest who had contracted the virus in West Africa, though she acknowledged this week that she may have made a mistake when removing her protective suit.
Ramos cleaned the room of Manuel Garcia Viejo, who contracted Ebola in West Africa, after his Sept. 25 death. She entered his room one other time during his treatment, to change his diaper.
According to the World Health Organization, Ramos first reported a fever on Sept. 29.
This week, before her condition deteriorated, Ramos told a Spanish newspaper that "the error was the removal of the suit," referring to the protective equipment health-care workers wear while treating Ebola patients. Earlier, she had said that she had "no idea" how she contracted the deadly virus.
German Ramirez, a doctor in the Carlos III Hospital's tropical diseases division, told reporters Wednesday that the nurse "has told us of the possibility that her suit had contact with her face. ... It could have been an accident. It looks like it was the gloves."
Despite the explanation of human error that emerged this week, hospital workers are questioning whether the protective suits worn while treating Ebola patients and suspected cases there are adequate.
“A health professional could accuse the administration of a public health offense if they are forced to work in conditions that are not adequate," González, the Union of Nursing Technicians officer, told El Pais. "Not even at the regional health department can they be sure of the infallibility of the protocol, which is why no one is being forced to do anything.”
A report from one of the doctors who treated Ramos at a separate Spanish health-care facility before her transfer to Carlos III raised further concerns about the protections in place there.
Juan Manuel Parra's statement (first posted by El Pais) noted that the sleeves of his protective gear were too short to adequately cover his body. Parra said he entered Ramos's room more than a dozen times.
Like Ramos, Parra said in his statement that he found out "from the media" that the patient had tested positive for Ebola.
[this post has been updated]