Panic is brewing among health workers including doctors and nurses in Liberia as the Ebola virus continues to spread and claim lives. At the John F. Kennedy Medical Center the country’s leading referral hospital, health workers abandoned duties in the emergency ward after a patient who was brought in very sick died.
Health authorities in Monrovia speaking to FrontPageAfrica confirmed the incident and stated that everything is being done to put the situation under control.
“There was a death that occurred there and it is true the people were running away from there; but our case management team went there to put the issue under control,” Assistant health minister for curative services Tolbert Nyenswah told FrontPageAfrica Friday following the incident at the hospital.
“The person was sick and taken there and died there but it was not a health worker. The patient was showing signs of Ebola so the health workers did not want to go in contact with them, so our team went in.”
The JFK scare comes at a time when nurses and patients have abandoned the Redemption Hospital in New Kru Town over similar fears.
Since the outbreak of the new round of the disease was reported in early June, health workers who have been in the frontline fighting the disease by giving care to sick people have been at risk with ten deaths reported in health practitioners who have succumbed to the deadly virus. Recently a Ugandan Doctor died after being infected with the virus. Many health workers have abandoned duties because they are afraid of coming in contact with people infected with the disease but the ministry of health argues that all is being done to minimize the risk to healthcare providers by training people in over 500 health facilities across the country.
“We did all of the facilities and provided them with gloves, disposable gowns, chlorine and other assorted materials and the training still continued for other facilities,” said Nyenswah.
Despite the fight against the virus, the cases continues to rise with Bomi becoming one of the new counties to report cases, joining Montserrado, Lofa and Margibi counties as counties with persons infected by the virus.
“One case has been confirmed from Bomi. As of today in Liberia we have one hundred and thirty seven cases with confirmed cases of 54. Out of the confirmed cases, one in Bomi, 39 in Lofa, one in Margibi and 23 in Montserrado,” he said.
Continued Nyenswah: “If you combine cumulative, confirmed, probable and suspected cases, we have 137, of that number, one in Bomi, 87 in Lofa 3 in Margibi and 66 in Montserrado.”
Despite the rise in the death of health workers and the growing panic among nurses and doctors, Assistant Minister Nyenswah said there has been no reported death among health workers in the last few days but the number of deaths in persons affected by the disease continues to rise.
“In about four to five days we have not reported any new case in health workers, so the cases in health workers still remain ten, with nine deaths in health workers,” he said.
“The number of deaths has hit 85 now, with confirmed 40 cases confirmed in the number of deaths,” he said.
He said the ministry is following up on people who might have come in direct contact with people infected with the virus by either caring for them or touching them.
“Contacts tracing is going on. We have line-listed 364 contacts and we are currently following up 305 of the 364,” he said.
“It means, on a daily basis, these people might have come in contact with an infected person; so we are doing the 21 days of follow-up. Out of the 364 contacts, 134 are in Lofa County, 28 in Margibi and 202 in Montserrado County.”
Not under control
Minister Nyenswah said Liberia is still battling the deadly virus and it is still finding it difficult to contain it, but is optimistic that Liberia will find a way to overcome the disease.
“It is not under control, because if an outbreak is under control, then you are not reporting new cases;do the outbreak is still active,” he said.
“We have not stabilized the transmission of cases yet. We are still reporting new cases, in the context of public health outbreak, if an outbreak is not being controlled or contained yet, that’s how we call it.”