As you may know, Ola During Children’s Hospital (ODCH) stopped admitting patients on the 18th of August, when a child that had spent several days on the emergency ward was suspected of having Ebola after the caregivers finally gave the correct history. This patient tested positive. Unfortunately, caregivers frequently hold back information for fear of their child having Ebola, leading to challenges with identification and appropriate isolation of potential cases. Sadly, this breach of protocol on this occasion meant that multiple patients, their families, and the health workers tending to them were exposed to Ebola. The closure of ODCH’s inpatient wards has inevitably had terrible consequences for children seeking care for any number of potentially life-threatening conditions. The consequences of the Ebola outbreak for pregnant women are equally as bad, as women end up giving birth at home for fear of catching Ebola if they deliver in a health facility or because they cannot access health care services because health staff are placed at high risk without proper protective equipment to allow them to safely conduct deliveries or c-sections.
Currently, the ODCH management, Ministry representatives and partners are working to find a way to reopen the hospital in a manner that will ensure the safety of staff and patients. We are committed to supporting them in that process.
In recent days and weeks, the Welbodi Partnership has had multiple conversations both internally and with ODCH regarding how best we can support them to mitigate the effects of Ebola—including the ripple effects on Sierra Leone’s already fragile health system and on the ability of women to access services for safe labour and delivery and children to access care for preventable and usually treatable conditions. We simply cannot know with certainty what will be needed a few days from now, let alone months down the line, as Sierra Leone works to contain and then recover from this outbreak. What we do know is that the principles by which we have always operated—particularly the principles of partnership, and our recognition that health facility staff are often the best judges of what kinds of support they need—still hold during this emergency and its aftermath.
We are therefore raising an emergency fund to support initiatives proposed and implemented by staff on the ground at ODCH and Princess Christian Maternity Hospital (PCMH). We will also explore whether and how we might open this to peripheral health unit (PHU) staff and community initiatives in the Western Area. We will work with staff to develop and implement these ideas, and will coordinate with the MOHS and with other NGO partners, particularly those with expertise in Ebola prevention and control. We envision that these initiatives might include efforts to train health personnel in infection control, provide protective equipment, support the re-opening of ODCH, coordinate with other NGOs in other parts of the country, or contribute to the ongoing operational costs of a children’s isolation ward. In the long run, there will be a great need for strengthening health systems and rebuilding trust in the health facilities and among communities. (To read more from some of the Welbodi directors about the links between Welbodi and weak healthcare systems, you can click here or here.)
We would be grateful for your support—whether by donating funds or spreading the word. You can donate online here, or contact us to find out how you can help.