19 August 2014

Liberia: Recovering From Trauma - After Losing Doctor, JFK Rising Back

Photo: Boakai Fofana/AllAfrica
The emergency ward at the John F, Kennedy Medical Center, the largest referral hospital in the country.

"Ebola is an inhumane virus, it has made us to lost our humanity, caused us so much pain, you cannot show that closeness to your employees to make them to work more - we lost a hero, the death of Dr. Brisbane brought us so much trauma that all the nurses left, we are just encouraging them now to come back, and it is like we are rebuilding", Dr. Wvannie-Mae Scott-McDonald, Chief Administrator John F. Kennedy Medical Center

Monrovia - The deadliest outbreak of the killer disease Ebola in three West African countries, Guinea, Sierra Leone and Liberia is still ongoing but the scars of the virus will remain for centuries to come and with the outbreak far from over, many people are already expressing deep sorrow over the pain caused by the virus.

In the town of Barkedu in Lofa County, one of the worst hit, at least sixty people have died from the virus in a single town and what that will cause the remaining survivals could possibly be a replica of the Rwandan genocide. At the St. Joseph's Catholic Hospital, seven people died from the same facility and the story is the same for several families where children have become orphans with the death of both parents and in some instances, either only a father or a mother is the only survivor.

On Sunday morning, Konah Kupee who lost her husband sat under a tree with her two children sitting a little distance and watching their mother shiver from fever. The two children were told to go home with father dead and mother now in isolation center being treated as a suspected Ebola patient until testing is carried out.

Who caters to the kids at home with the stigma of losing a father and mother in isolation until status of mother is known is another tale, but like the two kids there are several other people with touching stories to tell when the Ebola outbreak is gone and life starts afresh. Liberia's referral John F. Kennedy medical center is one facility hardly hit by the virus with the death of its Chief Medical officer, Dr. Samuel Brisbane and other medical workers.

Dr. Wvannie-Mae Scott-McDonald, Chief Administrator John F. Kennedy Medical Center is one person feeling the trauma of the death of a hospital official to the deadly Ebola virus.

A hero gone

"We have lost a hero, I can't imagine seeing him go, this is a man that helped me to setup this hospital in 2006 when there was nothing here, the death of Dr. (Samuel) Brisbane brought us so much trauma that all the nurses left, we are just encouraging them now to come back, and it is like we are rebuilding", she said.

Dr. McDonald described the late Dr. Brisbane as a veteran whom many other health workers respected and relied on for his experience and that his death caused trauma for the entire hospital and the health sector of Liberia which she says is difficult to overcome.

"All the nurses abandoned the hospital and we could not blame them because this man Dr. Brisbane was somebody, very good who could do a lot of work, losing him caused trauma for everybody", she lamented. With tears in her eyes Dr. McDonald described the Ebola virus as an inhumane disease which she said is causing Liberians to lose the sense of humanity and caring for one another.

"I don't know what is this. You cannot touch your employees any longer to show to them that you care for them to encourage them to work, this is really devastating".

On the damage caused by the virus, Dr. McDonald disclosed that the patients from whom the virus caused harm to the hospital were not admitted as showing the signs and symptoms of the virus, but taken in for different illness and within two to three days, these patients starting to show signs of the virus but it was late after they were attended to in a different way.

Building confidence

Dr. McDonald says following the death of Dr. Brisbane, all the nurses left the hospital for fear of the Ebola virus, but she has been encouraging them to return and some have shown up for work, leading to the reopening of the Maternity ward where pregnant women are being attended to.

"It is like we are starting from scratch, so I am trying to build confidence in the nurses by going around every morning to caution them, do you have your PPS? Watch yourself and also watch the other near you. I am just doing this to make them overcome the trauma", she indicated.

The nurses, she noted, are gradually showing up for work and she has cautioned them to treat all patients with care, taking to mind that they are suspected Ebola patients just to create a sense of extreme care in dealing with all patients. At the hospital, nurses were seen in their protective gears, but fewer in number as Dr. McDonald said all is been done to make the hospital get back to full capacity.

Appealing for support

Dr. McDonald says the operation of the hospital is becoming more expensive with attending to patients requiring more than three to four PPEs. "Now you cannot allow one nurse to loot after a patient because you need somebody to be on the watch so, when the nursing forgets doing something to cause them to contract the virus, that watch person will say, no you don't do this, so you need PPEs to the nursing working. The watch nurse is the cleaner who will clean afterwards, so attending to one patient is like using more than four PPE", she lamented.

According to Dr. McDonald some friends from the United States and other countries have been assisting the hospital through her appeal by sending donations of PPEs and other essential materials through DHL. But, says the hospital needs more.

"We are just looking up for assistance from out there, anything that can help to boost the morale of our nurses, we will appreciate them, many of my friends have been doing well and the Government of Liberia too, the President even visited here and has been visiting medical hospitals and clinics to encourage nurses and doctors to return to work, that is really good".

Ebola and Health workers

Since the outbreak of the Ebola virus, health care providers are amongst the high casualty rate in Liberia with at least 40 deaths of nurses, doctors and other health care providers. When the virus hit the country, a nurse first died in Foyah, Lofa County followed by another Esther Kesselly at the Redemption hospital, later Dr. Dr. Samuel Muhumuza Mutoro, a Ugandan doctor also succumbed to the virus at the JFK.

After the first case of the virus was reported at the St. Joseph's Catholic hospital, traced to the sister of Patrick Sawyer, who also transferred the virus to Nigeria, seven other people got infected and died of the virus from the hospital.

The first was the Hospital's Chief Administrator Patrick Nshamdze, 52, from Cameroon who died on August 2, 2014 after contracting the deadly Ebola virus then followed more deaths. Six persons have now died from the hospital, including a Spanish priest who died on Tuesday after being airlifted to Spain for treatment, after contracting the deadly virus disease. Three women's health-workers, including a Congolese nun have died and one medical doctor from the hospital.

In its latest update on the outbreak, the World Health organization says as of August 15, there have been 116 cases, 58 deaths, 190 confirmed and 154 deaths. Also WHO says there are 423 suspected cases, 190 deaths, 174 suspected cases and 69 deaths and in total, 786 cases and 413 deaths.

The data show Liberia as the country performing badly in terms of combating the virus with Guinea and Sierra Leone showing massive improvement. As opposed to Liberia's 116 new cases Guinea only reported 9 with 3 deaths while Sierra Leone reported 27 new cases with 14 deaths. Liberia's health sector has been facing huge challenges since the outbreak, which resulted in closure of all hospitals and clinics for weeks.

The Government early last week opened major hospitals to begin operations, but there is still outcry that it takes long for medical teams to respond in picking sick patients and suspected Ebola bodies from communities. In several communities, residents have staged protests, setting road blocks on main streets venting their anger over the slow response of the health teams.

Relief, 120 beds opened

Assistant Health Minister Tolbert Nyeswah has disclosed that a new center has been opened with 120 beds. Said Nyeswah: "We have been struggling in the past couple of weeks with space of where to admit would-be Ebola patients. Today we want to announce that a 120-bed capacity for treating Ebola patients has been opened at ELWA 3. The reason I call it ELWA 3 is that we have ELWA 2 that is now hosting about 77 patients. "

"Now ELWA 3 has the capacity of 120, to be expanded to 300 beds in the next one or two weeks. That center will be providing services to people and they will be there, to screen people- Ebola, non-Ebola and other cases that are related".

The ELWA 3, he said, is being fully supported by MSF and the government of Liberia, through the Ministry of Health and Social Welfare and a memorandum of understanding is between MSF and the government to provide staff, medical supplies and the services are now ready to be provided.

"As we speak, patients are being admitted. We are de-crowding and decongesting the ELWA 2 and then we'll be admitting patients from the general community based on the case history. The other positive news today is that the government through the World Health Organization in partnership is opening the JFK center also. "

"As we speak to you, five patients have already been admitted at the JFK center with 40 beds capacity. Services that will be provided in there is sorting out probable, suspected and alert cases of Ebola and those who are not Ebola cases, would be integrated into the regular JFK. JFK, JDJ are now opened in the hospital and providing services", the health official noted.

The basic treatment services, he indicated that will be provided at JFK and ELWA are the provision of rehydration salt, rehydration of patient services, Oral intravenous, anti Malaria, pain relief, anti vomiting medication, anti diarrhea and antivirus disease medication.

The Assistant Minister further said that the Ebola center is fully staffed with three doctors that will be providing supervision at JFK; two are Ugandans with one Liberian doctor. "The nurses there are also adequate to provide services to the place. We have seven nurses and thirty three Liberians, seven Ugandans providing services to the place, making the number of staff in that area to be about 40 including support staff like sprayers, securities and the rest of them. Also, services to be provided there include psychosocial support and the area is also conducive for blood transfusion," he concluded.

Who's In; Who's Out: President Sirleaf's Travel Ban Deadline Ends

President Ellen Johnson-Sirleaf's one week deadline mandating officials of government ministries, Agencies, Public Corporations, Commissions, and Parastatals to return home in the wake of the deadly Ebola outbreak expired Monday with several officials still out of the country while some are said to still be making efforts to find their way back. The clock has begun to tick to see what the president will do.

Monrovia - President Ellen Johnson-Sirleaf's one week deadline mandating officials of government ministries, Agencies, Public Corporations, Commissions, and parastatals to return home in the wake of the deadly Ebola outbreak expired Monday with several officials still out of the country while some are said to still be making efforts to find their way back. The clock has begun to tick to see what the president will do.

A source within the President's office told FrontPageAfrica Monday that the president has been infuriated by some officials who have been lobbying for an extension of their stay out of the country. "The President is serious about this and those thinking it is business as usual will feel her wrath," the source, speaking on condition of anonymity said Monday. FronPageAfrica has learned that some officials, including the chair of the National Oil Company of Liberia, Dr. Randolph McClain has had requests to travel rejected by the President.

Last week the National Oil Company of Liberia submitted a letter to FrontPageAfrica offering clarity on an August 13, 2014 report captioned: 'Who Falls in Trouble President Sirleaf's Mandate? - TRAVEL BAN DRAGNET.' NOCAL took exception to the mention of Cllr. Seward Cooper, chair of NOCAL board in particular.

According to NOCAL, the chairman of the board of NOCAL left the country in early August as part of the Vice President's delegation to attend the just ended US-Africa summit held in Washington, DC. Further, Cllr. Cooper is a key participant in the Road Shows of the 2014 Bid Round scheduled for August 19 in London, the United Kingdom and August 21 in Houston, Texas, the United States of America.

FrontPageAfrica has learned that although NOCAL made the announcement of the bid, TGS NOPEC which provides global geoscientific data products and services to the oil and gas industry to assist with licensing rounds and the preparation of regional data, programs, is facilitating the bid rounds in London and does not require the presence of the CEO or board chair.

Nevertheless, NOCAL went on to say that Cooper's trip was approved by the President. However an executive Mansion source told FrontPageAfrica Monday that Cllr. Cooper's trip had not been sanctioned by the President. "The President picking and choosing on this," the source added. Foreign Minister Augustine Ngafuan, Gender Minister Julia Duncan Cassell and a number of other officials who were also part of the delegation to the White summit, returned home last week. The summit took place from August 4-6 2014.

Last week, Sirleaf instructed all government officials currently out of the country, whether in government or private visit, to return home within a week or be considered as abandoning their jobs. The President is urging all government officials of the Executive Branch to take due note of this directive. The President did not say what would happen

An Executive Mansion source told FrontPageAfrica Monday that since the President issued the mandate, her office has been bombarded with a flurry of calls from officials seeking exemptions. "All of a sudden everybody were writing the President is asking for sick leave. How would that many people be sick at the same time," the source said.

The source also noted that the President will be following up on her mandate and is expected to keep tabs of all ministries and agencies for those still out and who have returned home. The Sirleaf's decision came in the aftermath of some encouraging words from Sudanese born billionaire Mo Ibrahim, who hailed the President for staying home in the wake of the Ebola crisis.

Ibrahim's foundation focuses on the critical importance of leadership and governance in Africa, was speaking on the sidelines of President Barack Obama's White House Summit recently when he declared that African leaders, making specific reference to President Sirleaf should find another way of connecting with other foreign governments rather than boarding the next available flight whenever they are sent an invitation to attend a summit or meeting.

"Because they have a job to do at home and this habit of African leaders running from Beijing to New York then French call them, they go to France; then the Japanese call them then they go to... " he said. "You can sit down at home and do your job actually. So I told her; you know what I suggest to you, a good knowledge for you to get video conferencing (laughter) because everybody wants a piece of you."

Ibrahim said President's Sirleaf's decision to cancel her trip to the all-important summit where at least fourteen African heads of states are attending the three-day summit that is primarily focused on trade, investment and security of the continent is the best thing to do in the wake of the Ebola crisis facing Liberia. "You sit in your country; sit in Monrovia and just use that and don't travel to those people," he said. "So I was very glad that she stayed at home to deal with the disaster, there instead of coming and having dinner here will not solve the problem for Liberia." President Sirleaf has come under huge criticisms at home for the amount of travels she makes in a year.

As of Monday, August 18, 2014, only a handful of officials had returned in the wake of the president's mandate. FrontPageAfrica has learned that Sebastian Muah, the recently-appointed Director of the Liberia Telecommunications Authority had returned home. Both Agriculture Minister Florence Chenoweth and Angelique Weeks, Chair of the Liberia Telecommunications Authority were expected back Monday, according to aides, but it is unclear whether they arrived last night.

Part of the problem, according to some associates of those that is still out there aren't enough flights flying into Liberia at the moment. Kenya Airways made its last pickup out of Monrovia Monday. Only SN Brussels and Royal Air Maroc are left. Delta's last flight is August 30. FrontPageAfrica has not been able to confirm whether Mr. Michael Wotorson, head of the National Investment Commission and Archie Williams, who is said to have been undergoing a medical procedure in the U.S., were back in the country.

The head of the country's Supreme Audit Institution, the General Auditing Commission of Liberia, Yusador Gaye, is also believed to still be out of the country while according to sources as is Deputy Justice Minister Benedict Sannoh is out of the country.

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