3 September 2014

Liberia: Reciprocity for a Risky Job

Kyndy Kobbah came out of the C.H. Rennie Hospital in Margibi County filled with praises and appreciation for GOD first and those who kept her in prayers. She appeared feisty days after her release from the ELWA isolation center pronounced Ebola free. Kyndy was among three doctors who were given the experimental Ebola drug ZMapp recently.

For Kyndy, it was an emotional moment and a home coming after she and professional colleagues survived the scourge of the deadly virus. Her colleagues, family members and loved ones were filled with ecstasy to see Kyndy looking buoyant as she resumed work to save humanity.

Such a commitment and devotion to duty in a country where health workers have sacrificed their lives to save others [and have received zilch in return] is the biggest disservice any government can pay back a professional bloc. It is worth mentioning that of the estimated 700 persons who have lost their lives to Ebola in Liberia, more than one third are doctors and professional nurses. Even now, they continue to be threatened by the disease which has shown no sign of floundering.

With this situation at hand, there are indications that huge problems still persist in getting the much needy support to health workers who are in the front line against the Ebola disease. Health practitioners are complaining that support needed to invigorate them to obliterate the disease is not forthcoming. Health workers are complaining that the lack of support hampers their ability to save lives. These distractions undercut the efforts of local and international supports to Liberia and would suggest that the government is either not serious about fighting Ebola or simply lack the ability or capacity to deal with the situation.

This may not be the case, but health workers continue to complain about the difficulties they are experiencing in the front line against Ebola. There must be reciprocity for the risk health practitioners are taking to save lives; they deserve better than creating a situation that would force them to recoil. President Ellen Johnson-Sirleaf, head of the government's task force on Ebola, must ensure that support needed for health workers across the country are made available.

Complaints about lack of support to health workers and institutions are the same everywhere. At the ELWA hospital, Dr. Jerry Brown and his team of dedicated servants have been outstanding in helping to revive the lives of over 30 suspected Ebola patients. Yet, the quality of their work has been undermined by unserious bureaucrats who take health practitioners for granted, especially at the time Ebola has become the most threatening disease.

The World Health Organization (WHO) says Ebola has taken the lives of over 1,550 people from Liberia, Sierra Leone, Guinea and Nigeria. The UN agency warned that an estimated 20,000 people risk infection. This figure, according to the WHO, could increase unless measures are put in place [in Liberia, Guinea, Nigeria and Sierra Leone] to contain it.

For me, I find it difficult to understand why health workers would complain about lapses in the health sector when the government continues to receive inexorable amount of financial and material support from within Liberia and abroad in the fight against Ebola. Perhaps, no government in the history of Liberia has enjoyed such an overwhelming support against a virus than this administration.

Liberians are appalled that in the face of the huge support against the Ebola virus, the government task force has not shown that it is capable of handling the epidemic. The situation is getting worse, and people are getting infected everyday. Therefore, health workers must be prioritized because they are on the front line; if they get infected, Liberians risk getting infected as well.


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