Sierra Leone hospital closes after doctor gets Ebola

Kissy United Methodist Hospital was closed Nov. 11 after Dr. Martin Salia, chief medical officer and surgeon, tested positive for Ebola.

Salia, the sixth doctor in Sierra Leone to be infected with the deadly virus, was taken to the Hastings Ebola Treatment Center near Freetown.

Sierra Leone United Methodist Bishop John K. Yambasu and Beatrice Gbanga, the United Methodist Sierra Leone Conference’s medical coordinator, held an emergency meeting at the hospital to talk about steps to protect the staff and make sure the hospital is disinfected immediately.

“I was emotionally disturbed when I got news this morning that Dr. Salia had tested positive of Ebola. I prayed that the news might turn out to be false,” Yambasu said at the meeting.

It is not clear how Salia contracted the virus, but health ministry sources say the doctor worked at least three other medical facilities in addition to Kissy Hospital.

Be sure to add the alt. text

Dr. Martin Salia, shown at the United Methodist Church's Kissy Hospital outside Freetown, Sierra Leone, in March, has tested positive for Ebola. Photo by Mike DuBose, UMNS.

Quarantines

Several units of Kissy Hospital, including surgical wards, were shut down last month when a patient who was admitted for other health conditions manifested signs of Ebola. That patient was taken to the Government Connaught Hospital in central Freetown, where he died.

Salia’s infection comes several weeks after the 21-day quarantine imposed on all staff in direct contact with the patient who died.

A reporter witnessed patients, including some mothers who had just given birth overnight, fleeing from the hospital after the news of Salia’s infection.

Hospital staff will be quarantined for the next 21 days. The Sierra Leone Conference Ebola response team will provide a 50-kilogram (110-pound) bag of rice, sugar, milk, soap, water and other food to the quarantined staff. The staffers also will receive minutes for their cell phones so they can report on their health condition in case of any emergency or deteriorating health.

The Sierra Leone Ministry of Health and Sanitation was immediately informed and the national Ebola response team will visit the hospital in the coming days to carry out fumigation of the entire hospital premises.

Yambasu expressed concern about hospital staff working at other health facilities and said that practice puts the United Methodist hospitals at risk while the conference is working so hard to ensure the safety of the facilities and medical teams.

United Methodist hospitals – Kissy in Freetown and Mercy Hospital in Bo — have been besieged with large numbers of patients in recent weeks following the closure of several private and government hospitals across the country.

Mercy and Kissy hospitals have remained opened despite increasing infection rates of Ebola across the country. At least one patient who was hospitalized at Mercy for another ailment was later diagnosed with Ebola.

Recovering

Two staff nurses of the United Methodist Mercy Hospital—Dennis Karimu and Alima Koroma—are showing signs of recovery at the same Hastings Ebola Treatment Center where Salia is now being treated after catching the Ebola virus. The two nurses caught the virus from a patient who recently died of Ebola at Mercy.

The patient, Momodu Bah Kamara, was admitted for another health condition but later showed Ebola symptoms. Hospital authorities decided to do an Ebola test but the patient died on Oct. 16, just a few hours before the result was processed.

Karimu and Koroma are the first United Methodist health workers to catch the virus at a United Methodist health facility. Mercy Hospital was shut down and quarantined Oct. 17 so that hospital staff could be observed for the usual 21-day period. The quarantine period ended last week and plans are underway for the hospital to resume operations on Nov. 17.

Mercy Hospital’s community health officer, Ben Bawoh, was the first United Methodist health worker to die of Ebola in early October after privately treating and caring for a brother whom laboratory results later proved to be positive of Ebola.

Bishop Yambasu told Kissy hospital staff before they went home Nov. 11, that only staff ready to relinquish working at other health facilities would be encouraged to stay when the quarantining ends in three weeks.

Jusu is director of communications for The United Methodist Church in Sierra Leone. 

News media contact: Kathy L. Gilbert at (615) 742-5470 or newsdesk@umcom.org. 

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