Sierra Leone: a specialist treatment centre for children, health workers and others affected by Ebola

Isaac* has been learning about how to prevent the spread of Ebola from Save the Children's sensitisation teams (Louis Leeson/Save the Children)
Isaac* has been learning about how to prevent the spread of Ebola from Save the Children’s sensitisation teams (Louis Leeson/Save the Children)

Yesterday, our first specialist Ebola treatment centre opened in Kerry Town, 40km from Sierra Leone’s capital, Freetown. For people living in the shadow of this deadly disease, this centre is a reason to hope.

 

An escalating crisis

The West African country has been at the centre of the growing crisis. Over 1,049 Sierra Leoneans have died in the outbreak, and new cases have been on the rise for the past six weeks.

Local healthcare services that were already fragile have been unable to cope with the disease’s spread, and have buckled under the pressure.

The new centre, which can provide up to 100 patients with diagnosis and treatment, will increase local capacity to rapidly assess and hospitalise patients, while helping to reduce the risk of further infection.

Procedures are also in place to ensure affected children get the specialist care they so desperately need.

 

A comprehensive response

Equipment still wrapped in plastic inside what will be the red zone of the Kerry Town Ebola Treatment Centre (Louis Leeson/Save the Children)
Equipment still wrapped in plastic inside what will be the red zone of the Kerry Town Ebola Treatment Centre (Louis Leeson/Save the Children)

The treatment centre will have more than 200 frontline medical staff, including a contingent of Cuban doctors, with around 50 on duty at any one time.

A further 50 to 70 non-clinical support staff and more than 100 hygienists will also be based at the site, with 100-120 working at the centre at any given time.

As well as treating locals, the centre will house a small separate clinic run by the UK’s Ministry of Defence to treat local and international health workers who have become infected with the virus.

Over 272 health workers have died from Ebola in the current outbreak, but Rob MacGillivray, Save the Children Country Director in Sierra Leone, believes the facility will provide those still battling the disease with the support their courage deserves.

 

 

Save the Children CEO Justin Forsyth in Freetown, just before the clinic in nearby Kerry Town opened (Louis Leeson/Save the Children)
Save the Children CEO Justin Forsyth in Freetown, Sierra Leone, just before the clinic in nearby Kerry Town opened (Louis Leeson/Save the Children)

Restoring health workers’ confidence

“We hope that a separate wing for staff treatment will restore the confidence of health workers previously reluctant to join the fight against Ebola,” he says, “particularly when thousands of doctors, nurses and other medical staff are still desperately needed in the region to help save lives and prevent the disease from gaining any more ground.”

The centre follows a 70-bed Ebola treatment unit in Bong country, Liberia, which we opened in September and which is now being run by the International Medical Corps.

In the coming weeks and months, we’ll also be opening a second treatment centre in Liberia, along with 10 community care centres to help Liberians isolate and treat Ebola patients within their own towns and villages.

 

So much more needs to be done

However, while the treatment centres will be important in slowing down the disease’s spread, MacGillivray is clear that more still needs to be done, adding, ‘’If the virus is to be contained, the international community must step up its efforts in the coming weeks by allocating more funds and medical personnel.”

With the G20 in Brisbane just around the corner, it’s a timely message. And you can play your part, by signing our petition calling on G20 leaders to step up the fight against Ebola, or by donating to our emergency appeal.

 

*Name changed to protect identity

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