President Ellen Johnson Sirleaf has expressed happiness that all the ETUs around Monrovia are experiencing a drastic decline in patient intake. However, she continues to warn Liberians to follow the advice and measures specified by healthcare workers in order to break the transmission of the disease, as there are still hotspots and pockets in communities.
According to an Executive Mansion release, President Sirleaf made the comments on Wednesday, November 26, 2014 when she visited the 96-bed Alpha OAU Ebola Center in Virginia and the 100-bed Island Clinic Ebola Center near St. Paul’s Bridge, Bushrod Island to assess conditions there, including constraints, and to thank healthcare workers, partners, and volunteers for their services to the country, especially in the fight against the Ebola virus disease.
At the Alpha OAU Ebola Center in Virginia, near Hotel Africa, the head of the ETU, Dr. Jonathan Hart, informed President Sirleaf that they commenced operations two weeks ago, precisely on November 10. With a total of 80 staff, the center currently hosts 20 suspected patients most of whom have been there for a week.
Responding to the Liberian leader’s question about constraints, Dr. Hart, who previously worked at ELWA-2, confirmed that the payment of salaries is not an issue presently, there was sufficient beds and mattresses, while regular meals (3X/day) is available for patients.
However, for the patients, he appealed for more clothing (clothes, blankets, beddings, pampers, etc.), and supplements like biscuits, juices, etc. “We need to make sure our patients are rehydrated constantly and adequately unless they will die from dehydration and not Ebola,” he said. He also appealed for medical clothes and transportation for the staff as there’s only one vehicle that serves all purposes.
Speaking to the staff, President Sirleaf thanked the healthcare workers for serving their country during this difficult time and working with this kind of disease, but thanked them for their commitment and dedication.
At the Island Clinic Ebola Treatment Unit, the head of the clinical team, Dr. David Kaggwa provided President Sirleaf with the statistics since the ETU opened in late September. They have seen 1,015 patients to date; while 582 were confirmed with the Ebola virus disease. A total of 301 deaths occurred at the ETU and the survival rate at the ETU stands between 50 – 55 percent.
Dr. Kaggwa reiterated that there is a decline in the cases of Ebola being treated there, noting, “We are operating below 50 patients because shortly we will be discharging 28 patients – 22 Ebola survivors and six were tested negative twice – by this we will be operating below 30 patients.” President Sirleaf later interacted with 28 patients that were about to be discharged from the Center.
Adding her voice, the overall head of the ETU, Dr. Atai Omurutu, who returns to Uganda next week, hoped that Liberia will have an Ebola free Christmas that President Sirleaf has targeted. In addition, Dr. Omurutu said Island Clinic has played a very big role in the reduction in the transmission of Ebola because of the location; noting that they are located in the middle of the hotspots – West Point, New Kru Town, St. Paul’s Bridge, Brewerville, among others.
“The moment we opened we kind of soaked in all those cases that were continuing the transmission. So I think it’s important that Island Clinic stays because it is a window of hope for the community around here,” she appealed.
But Dr. Omurutu alarmed over one disturbing trend where male Ebola survivors are infecting their partners and putting entire families at risk. “Almost all the wives of male Ebola survivors are coming to the ETU as patients,” Dr. Omurutu stressed and appealed to President Sirleaf to see how the Ministry of Health can freely distribute condoms in the various communities to avoid this disturbing trend.
The Ugandan doctor confirmed that once a person survives Ebola, they still have the virus in the semen for up to three months, and it’s extremely important that one abstains from sex during that period or use a condom to avoid infecting one’s partner.
During the Liberian leader’s interaction with health workers at the ETU, they raised a number of concerns including outstanding hazard allowances, contractors still to receive pay for two months, workers with expired contracts still hoping to be transferred to other facilities, transportation for workers, among others.
The Red Cross workers, for their part, appealed to President Sirleaf to visit their office at the old Ministry of Health where they would like to discuss issues with her privately. She readily accepted their invitation.
In response, the Liberian leader appealed to the health workers to have patience and promised to raise their concerns with the Ministry of Health in order to resolve the issues. With regards to outstanding arrears owed the healthcare workers, she assured them that they will received their salaries that they diligently worked for. “Once you sign a contract, you’ll have to get paid no doubt about that,” she assured.
On each stop, President Sirleaf thanked the healthcare workers, partners, and volunteers for their services to the country. “We would like to appreciate all of you for making this big sacrifice to come and join us to fight this problem and for your service to the country,” she told everyone. As usual, the Liberian leader, at each stop provided assorted food items and some cash to the health workers as a token of appreciation.
In another development, President Sirleaf also stopped over at the new site of the Ma Juah Market to inspect ongoing renovation work there. Marketers at the Ma Juah Market in Vai Town are to shortly relocate to Old Kru Town on UN Drive, Waterside.