28 Aug, 2014
A team of Ugandan doctors and health workers are deployed by WHO to provide medical support for an Ebola treatment centre in Monrovia, Liberia. This team comes with vast experience in managing Ebola outbreaks, having faced many cases of this disease since 2000. They work shifts alongside their Liberian colleagues to provide around the clock care and to help maintain strict infection control measures.
Madira Lefa, assistant physician at Kagadi Hospital in Uganda, cried when he read what was going on in Liberia, one of the three countries most seriously affected by the Ebola outbreak. Immediately he started thinking, “I have to help my colleagues”. Madira is one of 14 Ugandan medical doctors and health workers now working in the Ebola treatment centre in JFK Hospital in Monrovia, having been deployed by the World Health Organization (WHO).
The Ugandan team comes with strong experience in Ebola outbreaks, having faced many cases of this disease in several outbreaks since the year 2000. “To deal with this epidemic, we need to have good case management of patients, an effective isolation area and community-based contact tracing,” says Ugandan Dr Atai Omoruto, who arrived in Liberia in July to train and support health workers and doctors in JFK´s Ebola treatment centre.
Providing around the clock care
Work continues in 3 shifts around the clock in the treatment centre. The Ugandan doctors and health workers work alongside their Liberian colleagues treating patients and helping to maintain the strict infection control measures that are necessary in the centre.
The outbreak of Ebola virus disease in west Africa has seen a high proportion of infection in doctors, nurses and other health workers. This cooperation between countries is a good example of how experienced professionals can help to improve safety.
“Health workers are at the heart of everything ,” says WHO Assistant Director-General, Health Security, Dr Keiji Fukuda. “They need to have the right training and the right environment to work safely. Their work is absolutely critical.”
An opportunity to help another country
“This is an opportunity to help another country,” says Awilo Sarah Layo, a nurse from Mulago National Referral Hospital of Uganda. As the mother of 4 children, Awilo is in daily contact with them to make sure that they study and do their homework.
“We are facing a lot of challenges. This outbreak is worse than the ones we faced in our country,” she says. “At first, people did not believe in Ebola. Now people are more aware but the cases are still increasing. If people get a fever, they must report it immediately,” says Awilo, who has worked as a nurse during all of Uganda’s recent Ebola outbreaks.
Madira Lefa has also come with rich experience that he is now sharing with other health workers in Liberia. “I explain to them how to protect themselves, how to put on the protective equipment, what Ebola is and how to treat it,” he says. During these training sessions, memories of Madira’s past experiences with Ebola come flooding back, helping him to support his colleagues in Liberia.