The United States Department of Defense has inactivated the Monrovia Medical Unit (MMU) at Camp Eason and turned the facilities over to the Government of Liberia.
According to an Executive Mansion release, the closing ceremony took place at the site in Charlesville, Margibi County on Thursday, April 30, 2015.
The MMU- a 25-bed field hospital, was designed and constructed by the U.S. Government as a unique Ebola Treatment Center (ETU) to provide high level care specifically for all healthcare responders that became infected with the Ebola virus disease.
It was built to bolster confidence of healthcare workers to respond and if they fell ill, they would have a place to go for high quality care.
For six months, the MMU teams cared for 42 patients from nine different nations, including 18 healthcare responders with Ebola-nine healthcare workers survived the Ebola virus disease at the facility.
Speaking at the ceremony, President Sirleaf said there will be many stories written about Liberia’s fight against Ebola but stressed that there were three lessons learnt about how Liberia responded and succeeded in the fight against the disease. She named preparedness, participation and partnership.
On preparedness, she stressed that the country’s health system collapsed because Liberia was ill prepared. “We need to learn the lessons of history and prepare ourselves better,” she said.
With regards to participation, she highlighted the involvement of the various community leaders, citizens, and workers who joined the leadership of the Incidence Management System to fight the disease. “We owe it to them for being able to take charge and assume responsibility and leadership in the fight with the contact tracing, and advocacy about the disease and how it can be defeated.”
On partnership, she praised the international community for its partnership with Liberia especially when the country did not know about the virus, how to respond and lacked the resources, they reached out. “I want to say that the United States responded in a very significant way, including President Obama and many others,” she said, adding further that President Obama responded in a personal way.
President Sirleaf also praised the partnership with the U.S. Congress, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, the USAID’s Office of U.S. Foreign Disaster Assistance, OFDA, which led the U.S. Disaster Assistance Response Team (DART) and most especially the U.S. Military. “When you reach out and people have confidence in your commitment, your own dedication and acceptance in your responsibility of nationhood, then you get the response that we were able to get through this partnership,” the Liberian leader told her audience.
On behalf of the Liberia people, President Sirleaf expressed appreciation to the U.S. Public Health Service (USPHS) Commissioned Corps. “You left your homes and came to conditions that you did not know; conditions that were difficult. But you adjusted, worked with us and saved so many lives by the facilities that you managed,” she said.
For her part, U.S. Ambassador to Liberia Deborah Malac thanked the Commander of the USPHS Commissioned Corps, Rear Admiral Scott Giberson, for all the hard work he and members of the USPHS Commissioned Corps have done in West Africa.
“For the past six months, your devotion to duty, careful treatment of patients, and Camp Eason’s state-of-the-art MMU played a crucial role in saving the lives of Liberian and foreign healthcare workers stricken with the Ebola virus disease,” she said; noting that the work by the USPHS Commissioned Corps has been a key element in the United States’ whole-of-government Ebola response effort.
She said before their arrival, healthcare workers feared that if they became affected with Ebola while treating those sick with the disease, they might not receive proper care. They enabled Liberian and foreign healthcare workers to carry out their herculean task of treating and saving thousands of Ebola patients confident in the knowledge that they would take care of them if they contracted the Ebola virus disease.
The 19th U.S. Surgeon General, Vice Admiral Vivek H. Murthy, the leader of the U.S. Public Health Service (USPHS) Commissioned Corps who is visiting Liberia, assured the continuous partnership with Liberia. “We want to work with the Liberian leader and people to ensure that we not only get past this outbreak of Ebola but we are partners and will do everything that we can to support the construction of a stable and effective health system for the future,” he said.
According to him, the decommissioning was not the end of their partnership with Liberia; but just a milestone in that partnership that must endure because there is still much work to be done.
Vice Admiral Murthy said there were many stories that will be written about the response to Ebola; however, some of the stories that will be written will be about the response and resilience of the Liberian people and about the strength of the Liberian President, the Ministry of Health and others who guided this country during a very difficult time with great strength and capability.
Other stories, he said, will be written about the spirit of camaraderie and cooperation between partner organizations that came to Liberia at its hour of need and worked together putting egos aside to make sure that Ebola is tackled and defeated.
To have the opportunity to serve in Liberia has been a true honor for the USPHS Commissioned Corps, Vice Admiral Murthy said, further noting that the Corps came to this mission with a sense of purpose, mission and a sense of great dedication which is the history of the Commissioned Corps.
Since its inception in 1798, the USPHS Commissioned Corps has been a force for good in the United States and around the world starting from caring for merchant seamen to responding crisis such as to yellow fever, earthquakes and tornadoes and other disasters like at the end of last year responding to the Ebola crisis in Liberia and the sub-region. “It was our honor and privilege to be a part of the response that helped bring us to zero cases where we are now,” he said.
The first health worker admitted to the MMU on November 12, 2014, Mr. Alvin Davis- a physician assistant and one of nine Ebola survivors, on behalf of his colleagues, extended heartfelt thanks and appreciation to the United States Public Health Service MMU, courageous and inspiring officers of the MMU for their distinguished and dedicated services to healthcare workers and other responders throughout this crisis.
Mr. Davis also cherished the memories of his fallen comrades who succumbed to the deadly disease. “We can proudly say they are national heroes and they have dutifully crafted their names in the history of this nation through their courageous and dedicated sacrifices to humanity during this crisis,” Davis, a 2011 graduate of the Tubman National Institute of Medical Arts, said.
He also appreciated all the healthcare workers at the Ebola Treatment Units as well as survivors for their resilient and continuous service to humanity. “You all are heroes; you are national treasurers, you are a golden beacon of hope and inspiration to many; and above all you are champions,” he emphasized, adding, “Never cease to do what you do best and that is to continue to serve humanity.
Because of the loss of a substantial amount of public healthcare workers due to the Ebola virus which has tremendously affected the sector, Mr. Davis said, as Ebola survivors, they have the desire to learn and further contribute meaningfully to the public health service of Liberia. He challenged the Governments of Liberia and the U.S., the international community and other partners to provide support through scholarships and other opportunities for healthcare workers and Ebola survivors.
The US PHS Commissioned Corps, which ran the facility, is a part of the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services (HHS).
The Commissioned Corps is an elite uniformed service with more than 6,700 full-time, highly qualified public health professionals, serving the most underserved and vulnerable populations in over 800 locations both at home and abroad.
The flags of the Corps and the United States were lowered, folded and presented to Ambassador Malac and President Sirleaf respectively by the Commander of the Commissioned Corps Ebola Response in West Africa, Rear Admiral Scott Giberson and the U.S. Surgeon General Vice Admiral Vivek Murthy.