More than fighting Ebola, lack of doctors to attend on patients is turning into a major challenge for international agencies, which are engaged in battling the Ebola outbreak in West Africa as local doctors have either left their posts or foreign doctors are reluctant to take risk to treat the victims, said Reuters quoting medical experts.
In an online debate organized by Thomson Reuters Foundation on Ebola, many medical doctors or nurses have expressed their fears as they are the most vulnerable to infection, and some doctors have already died of the virus. Locals have no previous experience of Ebola, how to protect themselves or contain the disease.
“The fear factor is high, but people need to understand that Ebola can be controlled, be it within a clinic or within a country,” said Francis Kasolo, coordinator of the World Health Organization’s Sub-regional Ebola Outbreak Coordination Centre in Conakry, Guinea. He was one of five panelists who particiapated in the debate.
The crisis is serious in West africa, especially Sierra Leone, Guinea and Liberia, which have very few local doctors and nurses. Sierra Leone, with a population of 6 million has only a few hundred local medical staff, show World Health Organization (WHO) figures.
Just four ambulances serve a population of about 470,000 in Kailahun district in eastern Sierra Leone, says Anja Wolz, coordinator for charity Medecins Sans Frontieres (MSF), who was recently in Sierra Leone.
Moreover, there are not enough protective suits and hospitals even lack gloves, the experts said, making it difficult for relief teams to collect dead bodies safely. The panelists said some reports in Liberia said victims were waiting for 30 hours or more to get their dead taken away.
However, some heroic doctors and nurses stay put at their posts getting accolades from the panelists. “The heroic local doctors and nurses must be acknowledged and we need to find ways to remunerate them for their dangerous work,” said Johan Von Schreeb, professor of international disaster medicine at the Karolinska Institut in Sweden in the debate.
So far, Liberia has imposed a quarantine in West Point, a large slum in the capital Monrovia, and security forces have been stopping people from entering or leaving the area, though it is difficult to maintain forced isolation, said Korto Williams, country director for ActionAid Liberia, recollecting similar plague villages centuries ago in Europe.
“Quarantine should not mean the creation of plague villages,” he added. “Ebola affected communities must not be abandoned. There should be no ‘no go’ areas for health workers.”
Seeking usual trade and communications to continue in areas under quarantine, he said it is necessary to avoid further impoverishing of those communities whose livelihoods are already affected. The outbreak will take many months to stabilize, he said.