Mabesseneh Honouring Their Ebola Heroes


June 8, 2016 By Moses A. Kargbo

The second anniversary of the Ebola outbreak in Sierra Leone passed off quietly on May 25th.  Maybe it’s because no one really wants to relive something that led to the deaths of nearly 4,000 people. But St John of God Catholic Hospital (Mabesseneh Hospital) in Lunsar, Port Loko District, has not forgotten its fallen heroes even as it still cares for survivors.

Sierra Leone was declared free of the Ebola virus by the World Health Organization almost three-and-half months ago, but the staff at Mabesseneh Hospital are not taking any chances. “We had problems with hospital supplies; protective gears were in short supply and this exposed some of our medical staff to the Ebola disease,” said Brother Dr. Michael Koroma, Chief Executive Officer at the hospital. “We have learnt some good lessons, so we wouldn’t want a repeat of what caused the spread of Ebola at the hospital. Therefore, we pay strict attention to the adherence of safety procedures both by hospital staff and visitors.”

Aside from enforcing safety measures at the hospital, the management is focused on September 25–a day designated to honour the 11 hospital staff killed by the Ebola virus, including a renowned Spanish surgeon, Rev. Dr. Manuel García Viejo, who was a volunteer since 2002.

“Brother Manuel’s presence was not only key, but a source of hope for both staff and patients,” recounted Dr. Koroma. “He was responding to emergency cases in the whole of Port Loko District and from other regions of the country. With the caliber of medical staff we had, people had confidence in the center. They believed no matter their condition, they’ll get healed of their sickness once they come here.”

Photos of the deceased staff, including sanitary and laundry workers and a student nurse on training, and that of Rev. Dr. Viejo are displayed on a well-crafted stone carving at the main entrance. “We don’t have money to offer their families except their benefits, which we paid to their relatives; and this was one-off payment,” Koroma said. “We believe the only way we could pay them back for their selfless service to mankind is to celebrate their lives and the worthy sacrifices they made to save their compatriots.”

Yeabu, a female survivor residing some 400 metres away from the hospital said the disease completely devastated the Mabesseneh community and that had it not been for the resilience of the hospital management and staff, the disease would have decimated the entire community.

Koroma said they continue to cover a very big community and they need support both from the government and partners so that they could also attract more surgeons and doctors. “We are happy and grateful that a lot of institutions are visiting the hospital but especially pleased for the interest the World Bank has in us. We know the Bank deals with governments and not institutions, and we hope they’ll help,” he said.

On May 26, the Ministry of Social Welfare, Gender and Children’s Affairs signed a Memorandum of Understanding with the Sierra Leone Association of Ebola Survivors reaffirming government’s “continued determination to collaborate and work together [with survivors] to ensure the post-Ebola recovery priorities.”

The MoU determined concrete steps to help the survivors, including creating an Ebola Survivors’ Desk within the ministry. It also provides for intensifying media and community outreach to register all remaining survivors and to fundraise for programs to sustain the socio-economic and psycho-social welfare of survivors.

Al-Hassan Kanu, an Ebola survivor currently resident in the village of Feredugu, said: “We were treated free of charge [at the Mabesseneh Hospital], and they are still supporting some of us that survived the disease. We want government to support the hospital so that it will continue to provide free medical care for us.”

(CREDIT: Inside Africa, a World Bank publication)