It is with a deep sense of grief and a deep-seated angst that I write this piece. As the country loses her fourth medical doctor to the cold hands of the Ebola Virus Disease threatening our very existence as a nation and bent on making nonsense of the lives of our healthcare workers, it is very important that we try to look ourselves in the face and tell ourselves some stark naked truth!
By the end of August, the WHO reported that ten per cent of the dead have been health workers. With this alarming reality of things, we are in a very dire strait and in a disadvantaged position because when critical manpower such as the health sector becomes extinct, who is left to fight this virus or wade off its advances?
Taking a cursory look at the fight so far, a great deal of blame will readily be heaped on the Government of the day which has failed woefully in more ways than one, to nip this virus in the bud even when calls were made and ideas given.
It is with great relief when the Government did the needful and replaced the Minister of Health with someone who has a better knowledge of the health sector Dr Fofanah.
Sensitization campaign and creating awareness about this virus and measures that can be taken to guard against it, remains a critical tool to help achieve an elimination of this disease but all along, one will find out that this has either not been done properly or the tasks were left in the hands of people who can hardly differentiate between a virus and bacteria.
Health workers have not been given the needed push to give their all and they have been so left at their own mercy.
Another chance to make a mark has presented itself to us once again.
The Government has declared a three day lockdown to run from 18th 21st of September.
This lockdown has been proposed to give 21,000 trained volunteers the chance to do a house-to-house sensitization campaign about the virus, identify the sick and help refer them to relevant health divisions. Good idea! But wait, who are those doing the job?
This question comes in handy at this time in order to prevent against the problems of the past.
It is commonplace to see people singing and dancing from street to street chanting “ebola dey kill” “ebola go”…which obviously is not the message we want to pass at all! It is on this premise that I call on the handlers to get things right now and be professional in all they do. We have Medical Students in this country and students of other health disciplines who have not been used effectively in this campaign.
The Sierra Leone Medical Students’ Association, have earlier done a model of this by embarking on house-to-house campaign when it held its ‘Kick Ebola Out’ campaign using funds they sourced on their own with no support from anyone! They were able to achieve success in their own little way as the limited funds they had could allow. It will really be a great disservice to these lots if they are not engaged among the 21,000 volunteers to do this work.
The Ebola Virus disease has killed their lecturers, it has affected the resumption of their medical curriculum, it is therefore of a healthy imperative that he who wears the shoes, know where it pinches most. These are future Doctors of this country, they have to be better equipped now and trained to be able to help tackle this scourge, should it resurface again. God Forbid!
Ebola can be stopped and it all lies in taking the right step.
Awonuga Waheed O.
5th Year Medical Student, COMAHS
Tuesday September 16, 2014