The Ministry of Health and Social Welfare here in collaboration with the Incident Management System has reached a conclusion to decommission three ETUs in Montserrado County in the wake of a significant decline in new infections.
The ETUs being affected include the unfinished Ministry of Defense 1 or MOD1 and MOD2, in Congo Town and the Unity Conference Center in Virginia outside Monrovia.
The National Chair for Case Management at the Incident Management System in Monrovia, Dr. Moses Massaquoi, said, the reason for closing these Ebola Treatment Units is due to reduction in the number of Ebola patients or new cases.
Addressing a daily press briefing Tuesday at the Ministry of Information, Cultural Affairs and Tourism in Monrovia, Dr. Massaquoi said, the decommissioning process is very safe, and ETUs to be decommissioned will be thoroughly disinfected.
However, he warned the public not to go near any decommissioned ETU, saying, though it will be well disinfected, it is not a place one can easily go. He said the decommissioning will be in Montserrado for now, but ETUs in the other counties remain operational and effective.
Critics say the decision to shutdown ETUs is unwise because the authorities have been reporting intermittent new cases with the latest reported on Monday, 2 February in the St. Paul Bridge community on Bushrod Island, a commercial district.
Liberia had a bitter experience of lack of ETUs at the peak of the outbreak in 2014 until the arrival of 3,000 US troops here, who embarked on the construction of ETUs across the country, including Montserrado County, which eventually led to more beds in the ETUs than patients.
Dr. Massaquoi noted that ETUs in other counties will be decommissioned only if the three regional countries – Liberia, Sierra Leone and Guinea are totally free of Ebola, adding, Liberia along reporting zero case per day does not mean the country is totally free of Ebola not until the three regional countries are free of Ebola.
He said the Ministry of Health has assigned a team of experts to decommission the ETUs and will have to engage community leaders of those areas that have the ETUs.
According to him, the Government of Liberia decided to decommission the ETUs because of the decline in the cases; and as the cases reduce, there is no need to keep over 400 staffs when there is no case for them to work.
The Unity Conference Center officially closed on Sunday, February 1st, 2015; the site will be decontaminated and made safe but the structure will remain until the Country is officially Ebola free.
The two ETUs at the unfinished Ministry of Defense, will officially close on 25 February 2015 to make way for construction of the proposed Ministerial Complex.
Dr. Massaquoi added that Island Clinic on Bushrod Island is currently closed for renovation and will reopen early March with reduced number of beds for patients. Meanwhile, three ETUs remained open in Montserrado County with a capacity to accommodate 450 patients.
By Ethel A. Tweh