Tuesday, November 4, 2014

A fifth Doctor Dies in Sierra Leone: How is Politics Guiding the Ebola Response?

Dr Godfrey George
Yesterday, Sierra Leoneans received the sad news that the fifth local doctor infected with the Ebola Virus in the country passed away in Freetown. Dr. Godfrey George was in charge of the Kambia Government Hospital in the north of the country, a region of the country that was relatively free from the infection in the early stages, but is now the hotbed of the infection together with the Western Area. Dr. George felt sick in Kambia, came to Freetown and lost his life to Ebola.

Many Sierra Leones at home and abroad are wondering why all the doctors in the country who have been infected with the virus have died from the infection, while doctors and some health care workers in countries like America infected with the same virus have largely survived. All the American doctors who have been infected with the virus, including all the nurses have survived, while all five Sierra Leonean doctors have died.
Dr. Sahr Rogers

The loss of these top doctors are a severe blow to a country like Sierra Leone which has about 1 doctor for every 50,000 people. So it is important for health authorities in the country to ask what the Americans are doing right that is not being done in Sierra Leone. People should not start saying it is God's wish, God loves Sierra Leoneans and Americans the same. That is what I believe.

Dr Olivet Buck
Following the news here in America closely, we have learnt that some of these American health care workers and some people infected with the virus in Liberia received some experimental drugs. What effort has the Sierra Leone government made to get some of these experimental drugs, if any? The last time we heard that the fake nanosilver drug that was claimed to be a cure for Ebola, but was rejected in all other countries, was accepted by the authorities in Sierra Leone against expert advice. Is this ignorance and overt political interference in the fight against Ebola hampering the war against the disease in the country?
Dr Modupeh Cole

Right now the fight against Ebola is being led by Paolo Conteh a former soldier with no medical experience.  The overall response is presided over by President Koroma with very little medical
knowledge. Is it not time now to hand over the Ebola response to qualified medical personnel, even if it has to be expatriates, while government provides logistical and financial support. Is this not what the late President Kabba would have done?

In America, Dr. Bradley who got infected with the virus in Liberia has now donated his blood, which has the Ebola antibodies, to several people who were infected and they were all cured of the disease. Since Sierra Leone has so many Ebola survivors, is there any plan in place to create a blood bank of Ebola survivors' blood that could be used in newly infected cases and could offer a source of antibodies before the infection progresses? 

Ebola survivors have also developed antibodies to the Ebola antigen. This confers immunity to the virus on those who have survived. Are there any plans in Sierra Leone, like in other countries to train Ebola survivors in managing infection in new cases and be paid for doing so? This would greatly relieved the burden on local health personnel who have been brutalized by this infection.
Dr. Sheikh Umar Khan

We have also learnt that electrolyte rich oral rehydrating solutions are vital to keeping residents hydrated and maintain their internal chemistry that is destabilized by the excessive diarrhea and vomiting that is characteristic of Ebola and is the main reason patients die from the infection. How far has the public health authorities gone to acquire oral rehydrating solutions?

President Koroma really need to forget about politics for the time being and hire competent people to deal with this crisis. People like Stephen Gaojia may have all the political acumen in the world, but there are enough Sierra Leoneans with no political affiliation but with more public health care knowledge who would do a far better job of handling this crisis. President Koroma thinks like a hammer and imagines everything to be a nail. There are some problems that cannot be solved by politics, but by careful knowledge based decision making that considers all options, settling for the best. We hope this President will forget about politics for now and help save the life of his people.


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