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Dr. Lahai laments ‘awful state’ of Ebola center in Kenema

- says patients sleep on bare floor

SEPTEMBER 2, 2014 By Mohamed Massaquoi

Bernadette Lahai explaining to her Kenema brothers and sisters

Bernadette Lahai explaining to her Kenema brothers and sisters

Just few days after the sacking of the Minister of Health and Sanitation, Ms. Miatta Kargbo by President Ernest Bai Koroma, the Minority Leader in Parliament has informed indigenes of Kenema District based in Freetown about the “appalling situation” of the Kenema Ebola Treatment Centre and the entire township since the outbreak.

Dr. Bernadette Lahai said she has been reliably informed by the Kenema District Task Force on Ebola that most of the reported deaths in the district cannot be unconnected to the “lackadaisical behaviour of some officials of the Ministry of Health and Sanitation”, alleging that “the Ebola surveillance team of the ministry [of Health] notoriously take Ebola patients to the Treatment Centre in Kenema and dump them without any clear identification and the required resources to take care of them”.

She claimed that the centre is currently “overcrowded with unidentified dead bodies” and with limited resources.

According to Dr. Lahai, resources allocated to the district to take care of Ebola patients are far below allocations made for districts like Port Loko, Kambia, Bombali and Koinadugu, thus calling on the people of Kenema to provide used clothing for Ebola patients who have undergone treatment.

However, the Director of Policy Planning and Communications in the Ministry of Health, Sidie Yahya Tunis, told Concord Times that the ministry has records of every patient sent to the Kenema Treatment Centre and that they have been making appropriate financial support to the centre.

“Each and every blood sample sent to Kenema for testing has a clear indication as to the district the patient is coming from, and his or her name among other details,” he said.

But Dr. Lahai emphasized that until swift measures are taken by the government, the situation in Kenema will continue to degenerate thus exposing residents to the deadly Ebola virus. She maintained that the ministry has not been effectively taking care of Ebola survivors at the centre.

“I attended the Emergency Operations Center (EOC) meeting in Kenema where I was informed that the treatment centre is overcrowded,” stated the Minority Leader. “A lot of people are taken to the centre without proper identification; in fact it was reported that there were dead bodies without identification for burial. Up till this moment, the centre is not getting enough money to take care of patients. The ambulances are not enough and other amenities are grossly inadequate. Patients are even sleeping on the floor, and this is not good in our quest to fight the Ebola disease.”

She further alleged that most of those who had been treated for Ebola at the center have lost all of their properties and therefore very much reluctant to go back to their homes because all their personal effects had been burnt down to prevent them from re-infection.

A good number of Kenema residents complained to this reporter that they are seriously suffering as the district has been completely cordoned by security personnel as a result of the virulent disease.

They claimed that even the registration process that was being carried out by the World Food Programme (WFP) within the township has stopped because some unscrupulous individuals were allegedly using the exercise to extort money from households.

“Food is our problem, we are not allowed to go out of Kenema because of the Ebola virus,” complained Hawa Kamara, a resident of Kamara Town in Kenema. “The government has placed a 21 days ban on us but they are still coming with Ebola patients in the township, which is why the disease is still on the rise in the district.”

It could be recalled that the Paramount Chief of Nongowa Chiefdom in the Kenema District, PC Amara Bonya Vangahun, had passed an edict on Tuesday 27th August banning ambulances from other parts of the country from transferring Ebola patients to the treatment centre in Kenema.

According to the chief, such action would only increase the alarming rate on new Ebola cases in the eastern provincial headquarter town. But his call was met with criticisms, especially from the government.