Bong County health authorities say they are following “very closely” about 500 plus suspected Ebola cases that are shortlisted, along with a total of 44 confirmed cases across the county.
During President Ellen Johnson-Sirleaf’s “information gathering trip” to Bong County on Sunday, September 14, County Health Officer Dr. Sampson Arzoaquoi, reported that Gbarnga City and a few other places are declared “high risk zones.”
President Sirleaf visited three major hospitals in Bong, including the C.B. Dunbar Maternity Hospital; the Phebe Hospital, which offers general services, and the Bong Mines Concession Hospital as well as several clinics.
Dr. Arzoaquoi: “Additionally, we had a situation where we now have a total of about 500 and some more suspected cases in the county that we have shortlisted.”
He said the county has lost about 68 persons so far; and there are currently 44 confirmed cases, 10 of them, health workers mostly from Phebe Hospital, including an ambulance driver.
The county health officer said the Bong health team has been collaborating with the security sector and local leaders, and they have succeeded in having their presence felt almost in every village, town and district.
He boasted that people were now walking into the health facilities and reporting themselves for isolation. With assistance from Save the Children, he said an Ebola Treatment Unit or ETU has been established.
After meeting the demands of panicking nurses at the C.B. Dunbar Hospital, who had fled after some of their colleagues came in contact with Ebola patients, Dr. Arzoaquoi said they have returned to work, though some major concerns, including additional incentives and risk benefits are awaiting government’s response.
The CHO said nurses returned to work after an Ebola Treatment Unit was established, trainings conducted for staff and facilities were disinfected, while disclosing that construction is ongoing for a holding center that will serve as a transition between the community and the ETU.
But he warned that the health workers’ return was not “a reliable situation” as a major challenge now is motivating them in terms of increased incentives and risk benefits, which need to be addressed. Dr. Arzoaquoi said they are getting technical support from the World Health Organization while UNICEF is providing tents and other materials.
But President Sirleaf said, addressing incentives and risk benefits are taking a while here because the government is working with international partners to have a harmonized support for doctors in Liberia, Guinea and Sierra Leone.
She said there special circumstances for people working in the ETU because they are at greater risk, and added that everyone working in even small clinics is being considered. Families of the deceased are being listed, she said, to help their children and spouses.
President Sirleaf finally said Liberia does not want to see progress made in handling other health situations such as maternity, malaria, among others, disappear because of Ebola while appreciating health workers for the level of progress.
Earlier, Bong County Superintendent Selena P. Mappy, said the county task force has been succeeding in the fight to kick Ebola out; and lauded Save the Children for providing 150 pieces of mattresses.
But Superintendent Mappy said the lack of ambulance remains a challenge in the county, telling President Sirleaf that the only available ambulance that’s supposed to be for C.B. Dunbar Hospital is now transporting Ebola cases across the entire county.