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Head of China CDC says…

Occasional bad practice causes death of health workers

OCTOBER 13, 2014 By Alusine Sesay

Deputy Director General of the China Center for Disease Control and Protection, George F. Gao, has told Concord Times in an exclusive interview at his Bintumani Hotel room that the death of Sierra Leonean health workers was largely as a result of “occasional bad practice in which most are not careful in using personal protection equipment”.

The Ebola virus disease has killed four top Sierra Leonean medical doctors and several other nurses since May when the outbreak spread from neighbouring Guinea.

“If you think about the way Ebola transmits, it is really due to occasional bad practice and some mistakes along the way. As a health practitioner, you are directly in contact with the disease but once you wear the PPE, then you are safe,” said the medical expert who also leads the Chinese Laboratory in Sierra Leone.

He further noted that “most nurses are not aware of lots of stuff” and that they are very much scared working at the centre, hence cannot do things correctly.

He cited an unnamed government hospital he visited where health workers were not putting on their PPEs while attending to patients. He stressed the need for proper coordination from the central government to the local levels to identify close contacts and educate the public on the preventive methods on Ebola.

Dr. Gao also stressed the need to properly coordinate the running of holding and treatment centres so as to ensure prompt transfer of confirmed cases and prevent transmission among suspected cases.

“We are running a holding centre, not a treatment centre. However, as you know the two centres are now merging. If you have a patient who cannot be transferred immediately, he most likely stays while he receives basic treatment,” he said. “It can be dangerous to delay the transfer of a confirmed case at a holding centre because such can cause transmission; hence government needs to coordinate them well.”

Moreover, Dr. Gao expressed pessimism about the prompt containment of the Ebola virus because “the disease keeps hitting the bar with no turning point”.

He disclosed that the Chinese team is running mobile laboratories to test Ebola suspected cases, as well as a holding centre which contains 40 beds for suspected cases. The laboratories, he added, have the capacity to conduct tests on up to 60 samples per day, but that only 40 tests are conducted per day as at now.

“Government should think about coordinating the holding and treatment centres to ensure prompt transfers of confirmed cases,” he suggested.

Gao further pointed out that since they have only four Chinese doctors and eight nurses – which are not enough to run the holding centre at Jui – they are offering training to local nurses and teaching them the process of how to use the personal protective equipment.

He said plans are underway to provide future training programmes to Sierra Leonean health practitioners so as to help strengthen the health sector in the country.

“We trained 24 nurses when we started operations. We taught them the whole process of how to put on and remove the PPEs. We also hope to run training programmes in the future for Sierra Leonean health workers,” he said.

Though revealing that the mobile labs would be taken to China after the containment of the outbreak, Dr. Gao also disclosed that the Chinese would construct a permanent bio-safety lab in Sierra Leone where viral tests would be conducted in the future.

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