In my opinion the challenges facing Sierra Leone because of the ebola epidemic, have created a vacuum in our health system leading to failures to respond to other diseases that also have high mortality rates.
All attention is focused on containing the spread of ebola, yet there are people suffering from malaria, cardiovascular diseases and other ailments that need urgent treatment by medical personnel, many of whom remain without protective clothing and, through fear, are deserting the hospitals.
The present health situation is so complicated that the people are becoming confused as to whether ebola alone is the ravager. There have been anecdotal reports of deaths from other causes, where the patients were left to die because care wasn’t available. As a result, people are worried, afraid and distrustful. The Minister of Health must urgently bring together all health stakeholders and ensure that hospitals are opened to patients for treatment, and that all medical staff receive adequate protection against the ebola virus.
This could be done with the opening of a ‘screening’ ward which patients would attend before their acceptance for treatment at the hospital. There are hundreds of hospital patients without specialist care,
and unless our government takes measures to address this predicament, the overall health burden will continue to be severe.
Malaria continues to be a major cause of death in children under the age of 5 years old throughout the country, while high blood pressure, diabetes, hepatitis and typhoid fever amongst many other diseases, are a major threat to our wider society.
There are allegations that patients in some of the hospitals are not treated equally by medical staff, creating further fear amongst people in the grip of this outbreak, who have watched their loved ones succumb to ailments other than ebola. Reports are being made of unidentified corpses remaining unclaimed, uncollected and visible in public areas, including a corpse I have personally seen which has lain abandoned for over three days and is now decomposing causing additional threats to the health and well-being of the community.
I call on the government of Sierra Leone to give its people leadership and hope in this most challenging of times. The current climate of dithering, dissembling and evasion of responsibilities does nothing for the reputation of our country – internally or internationally. This government must do whatever is necessary to safeguard its people against this current ebola epidemic and to recognise and address the flow on impacts of
MAIN PHOTO: Flickr ©EC/ECHO/Jean-Louis Mosser