Ebola Crisis: No Excuse For Sierra Leone's Lack Of Protective Gear For Medics

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As I write, there are reports of negotiations ongoing between the Sierra Leone government and nurses at the main government hospital in the capital over an ultimatum issued by the nurses requesting adequate Ebola treatment Personal Protective Equipment (PPE) or they will not return to work.

It is difficult to understand why several months into the Ebola outbreak; we are still talking about a lack of adequate PPE. The spokesman for the Ministry of Health, Mr. Sidie Yayah Tunis, confirmed on the All Sierra Leone Diaspora Ebola Campaign teleconference last Saturday that only isolated Ebola treatment centers are provided full PPE gears.

According to him, hospitals are provided less protective gears. This is not only a reckless endangerment of the lives of medical practitioners at these hospitals, but also a big failure in the Ebola crisis management.

As long as medical practitioners are going to continue to get infected with Ebola, chances are they will infect non-Ebola patients coming into those hospitals, as well as their family members at home. Every sick person with flu-like symptoms today in Sierra Leone is a potential Ebola patient and must be treated as such until declared otherwise.

Accordingly, medical practitioners at hospital registration and administration desks and all others coming in contact with incoming patients between there and the wards, must be in full protective gears until an incoming sick person is declared a non-Ebola patient.

The fact that the Ebola death toll among medical practitioners remains high with the Kenema Government Hospital, the epicenter of the Ebola outbreak recoding the highest including late Dr. Sheik Umar Khan, seems to substantiate the risk imposed by this weakness.

This also seems to explain why many in the country now have little confidence in the health system to manage the Ebola crisis. This risk cannot be unconnected with reasons why many of the sick, whether with Ebola or other curable disease, are electing to stay at home instead of going to hospitals.

After all, who wants to go to hospitals where doctors and nurses are dying of the same disease they appear to be treating? It is must be known that a college roommate of Dr. Khan did disclose at the latter’s funeral in Maryland, USA a couple of weeks ago that Dr. Khan did not have enough PPEs to protect himself and his workers in the fight to contain Ebola. According to the gentleman, who happens to be a doctor himself, Dr. Khan had sent to him and other college club members an email requesting for PPEs.

With the State of Emergency declared and Ebola being the most critical government program today, there is no excuse why hospitals do not have adequate PPE.

We are talking about face shields, gloves, gowns, masks; and not x-ray or magnetic resonance imaging (MRI) machines. In additional to private donations and international funding trickling in by the day, the government has the authority to re-program prior appropriated budget in order to ensure the Ebola crisis management is fully funded.

As the people of Sierra Leone and the international community strive to work together to combat this alien disease, evidence continue to suggest that the usual complacencies, inefficiencies, corruption, and lack of accountability and transparency seem to continue unabated and stand to seriously hinder the overall Ebola containment effort.

The recent documentary by The New York Times titled, “Don’t Touch the Walls’: Ebola Fears Infect an African Hospital”, tells the whole story. 



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