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‘Ebola spread exposes weakness in our healthcare system’

- says former Health Minister

SEPTEMBER 9, 2014 By Ibrahim Tarawallie

Former Minister of Health and Sanitation has said that the spread of the deadly Ebola viral disease in the country and its attendant death toll of close to 500 Sierra Leoneans has exposed the weakness in the nation’s healthcare system “because it could not cope with the epidemic”.

In an interview with Concord Times at his Hill Station residence in Freetown yesterday, Dr. Soccoh Kabia called for a comprehensive reform of the whole healthcare system from the medical school to the production of more doctors.

According to him, to meet the medical human resources needs of the country, there is need to train more specialist doctors and nurses and develop specialized training programmes in-country as well as medical facilities with equipment and diagnostic capacity to meet the challenges of the nation.

“There is also need to provide enough drugs and efficient laboratories and blood banks. As it is now, doctors and nurses are fighting fire with their bare hands. We don’t have medical charts and records. Ebola is not normally endemic in the sub-region, it took us unawares but the response was not as robust as we could have done,” he said.

Dr. Kabia emphasised the need for massive sensitisation and education of the populace in order to contain the spread of the deadly disease, and commended the government and partners for strides taken thus far.

While stressing the need for more resources to be provided, both in terms of logistics and treatment centers because of the spread of the virus all over the country, the former Health Minister opined that “one should not feel intimidated to speak because the issue at hand is national and requires collective effort”.

 “The government has done well to ensure the containment and eradication of the Ebola virus. The biggest challenge for Sierra Leone is that the virus is all over the country, which requires more resources [to contain it],” he said. “Ebola is a killer disease but one can have the chance of survival if supportive care treatment is provided at an early stage.”

With regards the declaration of a three-day stay at home by the Presidential Task Force on Ebola from September 19 to 21, Dr. Kabia welcomed the initiative, noting that it will be worthwhile if the authorities stick to its objective, which is “to sensitize and educate the masses”.

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