Three Sierra Leonean doctors dead in 24 hours?

Sierra Leone Telegraph: 5 December 2014

Dr Thomas RogersTonight a very dark and gloomy shadow falls on Sierra Leone, as worst fears for the safety of the country’s local doctors now emerge, with news of three Sierra Leonean doctors dead.

This shocking news is yet to be confirmed by the government, but sources say that the three doctors are: Duada Koroma, Aki Macauley, and Thomas Rogers.

Both doctors Dauda Koroma and Thomas Rogers were diagnosed Ebola positive early this week. But Dr. Thomas Rogers passed away this afternoon, as news was coming in of Dr. Aki Macauley too, having today succumbed to the virus.

Dr. Macauley is the medical doctor of the Rokel Bank in Freetown.

Once again we ask the question: What is happening to our very limited supply of doctors in Sierra Leone?

Many would argue that each of our doctors has a responsibility for their own safety and the safety of their patients and those they work with. But is anyone taking responsibility for the very poor, makeshift conditions they are expected to work in?

Sierra Leone EbolaSave the Children Fund are being stupidly criticised by the government for strictly enforcing a low ‘doctor to patients ratio’ at the Kerry Town Treatment Centre. Who in their right senses would blame Save the Children?

There is a method in Save the Children’s madness, which put simply, says: they do not wish to see their doctors in body bags, because of overcrowded working conditions. SIMPLE – no brainer.

Our doctors are overworked, under-paid, tired, having sleepless nights, and in many cases using substandard protective wear in the most difficult of working conditions.

Health workers are going to work without pay, yet the head of NERC – Palo Conteh has the temerity to announce this week that, he has ordered $1 million to be handed to paramount chiefs to help fight Ebola.

How corrupt and self-serving is that? Bribing paramount chiefs with $1 million will not bring Ebola to an end. This is nothing but POLITRICKS.

The World Bank and African Development Bank have given the government more than $200 million to spend on tackling Ebola – so far with no positive results to show. Yet paying health workers their just dues is such a pain for the government.

Handout shows Martin Salia, a Sierra Leonean doctor sick with EbolaFew, if any of our Sierra Leonean doctors have been able to take a break from the daily onslaught of Ebola.

They have been working flat out for the past NINE MONTHS without a break, and most months without pay. This is scandalous. (Photo: Late Dr. Salia – passed away few weeks ago).

Our foreign doctors and nurses take a break overseas as part of their contract, once every three months, in order to allow them to recharge their batteries, re-energise and in some cases seek emotional counselling abroad before returning back to Sierra Leone.

We can do the same for our doctors. We have the funds to do it and it must be done NOW.

Dr Rogers and Dr KoromaIf these three deaths are officially confirmed, tonight Sierra Leone will record the deaths of eleven doctors in FIVE MONTHS.

This is unacceptable, and the government must be held to account. (Photo: Dr. Rogers and Dr. Koroma who passed away today).

Sierra Leonean doctors have families and loved ones too. Most are quite young – in their thirties and forties – and relatively new in the profession.

Before the start of Ebola, we were saying that our young doctors are the future of the country’s crumbling health service, which successive governments are criminally guilty of neglecting.

But today, they are the life saving and most precious asset Sierra Leone has, and cannot afford to lose.

Each doctor in Sierra Leone is worth more than 100 of those useless and thieving chameleons we call POLITRICIANS – most of whom are overpaid, overweight and under-worked – jobsworth.

Our politicians are only interested in lining their pockets with donor funds, and care very little about the welfare of our poor and overworked doctors, who are dying in the line of duty.

In Sierra Leone today, the odds of a doctor being struck down by Ebola in the line of duty, are far higher than the chances of being knocked down by an okada in the middle of a busy street in Freetown, which sadly is eight out of ten chances.  How sad and frightening.

Our doctors must now take serious stock of what is happening in front of their very eyes and demand change to their working environment, and terms and conditions, otherwise no one gives a damn about their safety – as long as they turn up for work.

The international medical humanitarian organisation – Doctors Without Borders / Médecins Sans Frontières (MSF) said two days ago that the international response to Ebola in West Africa has so far been patchy and slow, and has left local people, national governments and non-governmental organisations (NGOs) to do most of the practical, hands-on work.

Three months after MSF called for states with biological-disaster response capacity to urgently dispatch human and material resources to West Africa, all three of the worst-hit countries have received some assistance from the international community.

But foreign governments have focused primarily on financing or building Ebola case management structures, leaving staffing them up to national authorities, local healthcare staff and NGOs which do not have the expertise required to do so. The national authorities in the affected countries have taken the lead on the response with the means available to them.

ebola burial teams2“Training NGOs and local healthcare workers to safely operate case management facilities takes weeks. Though MSF and other organisations have been offering training, this bottleneck has created huge delays,” says Dr Joanne Liu, MSF’s International President.

“It is extremely disappointing that states with biological-disaster response capacities have chosen not to deploy them. How is it that the international community has left the response to Ebola – now a transnational threat – up to doctors, nurses and charity workers?”

Across the region, there are still not adequate facilities for isolating and diagnosing patients where they are needed. In rural areas of Liberia where there are active chains of transmission, for example, there are no transport facilities for laboratory samples.

In Sierra Leone, scores of people calling in to the national Ebola hotline to report a suspected case are told to isolate the person at home.

Meanwhile, other elements that are essential to an Ebola response – such as awareness-raising and community acceptance, safe burials, contact tracing, alert and surveillance – are still lacking in parts of West Africa. In Guinea, for example, where the epidemic continues to spread, awareness-raising and sensitisation remains very weak – especially for an intervention that began eight months ago.

But some international actors seem unable to adapt quickly enough to a fluid situation and shift their focus to other activities as required.

“Controlling an Ebola outbreak goes beyond isolation and patient care. Wherever there are new cases the full package of activities must be in place. Everyone involved in the response must take a flexible approach and allocate resources to the most pressing needs at any given time and place across the region,” says Dr Liu. “People are still dying horrible deaths in an outbreak that has already killed thousands. We can’t let our guard down and allow this to become a ‘double failure’: a response that is slow to begin with, and then is ill-adapted in the end.”

MSF began its Ebola intervention in West Africa in March 2014 and is now operating in Guinea, Liberia, Sierra Leone and Mali. The organisation runs six Ebola case management centres with a total capacity of more than 600 beds.

Since March, MSF has admitted more than 6,400 people, of whom approximately 4,000 tested positive for Ebola and 1,700 have recovered. MSF currently has some 270 international staff working in the region and employs 3,100 locally hired staff.

WIn Sierra Leone as the ministry of health and the NERC continue to play deadly politics with the Ebola statistics, questions are being asked about the effectiveness of the government’s leadership and coordinating role in responding to the crisis.

It seems only the World Bank and the international community are satisfied with the government’s performance. One has to wonder why.

More than 10,000 people have contracted Ebola in Sierra Leone, but the government says that they are only able to confirm 6,238 cases.

In Freetown alone, over 2,256 Ebola cases have been confirmed by the government, though realistic estimates, put the figure at more than 5,000.

Sierra Leone needs more than 3,000 holding and treatment beds in order to deal with existing cases, and another 2,000 beds to cope with the new cases that will emerge in the next few weeks.

Dr RogersIn the meantime, many more doctors are going to lose their lives unnecessarily, due to a ridiculously high ‘local doctor to patient ratio’, poor working and makeshift conditions; and in many cases – doctors are still wearing sub-standard and cumbersome protective wear. (Photo: Dr. Koroma – who also passed away today).

Our doctors must now be put on a ‘three months rota – two weeks paid holiday’, to allow them to re-energise before returning to work, just as their international counterparts are allowed to do.

Enough is enough. How many more doctors must die before their plight is considered a priority?

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