September 4, 2015 By Alusine Sesay
University of Liverpool, in collaboration with the Clinical Research Management (ClinicalRM), yesterday handed over the refurbished and equipped blood bank at the Connaught Hospital in Freetown to health authorities.
Dr. Janet Scott, from the University of Liverpool and Clinical Lead of the Convalescent Plasma Study, and Joesph Sgherza, President of the ClinicalRM, jointly presented a commemorative plaque to the Director of National Safe Blood Transfusion Service, Dr. Sam Baker.
The Connaught Hospital blood bank was in total dilapidation prior to its refurbishment and refitting with modern equipment by the University of Liverpool and ClinicalRM, thus allowing for an improved environment for the production and donation of blood and plasma.
The facility can now boast of adequate and regular electricity supply that will continuously power the machines, refrigerators and freezers.
The improvement was part of support to a research study for investigating convalescent plasma from Ebola survivors, as a potential treatment for Ebola patients.
The blood bank was strengthened by the Ebola Convalescent Plasma Consortium funded by the Wellcome Trust and The Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation.
In addition to the provision of plasma making apheresis machines and diagnostic machines, expert from the English Blood and Transplant Service and Public Health in England provided training for staff and re-agents for the blood bank.
Director of the National Safe Blood Transfusion Service, Dr. Sam Baker, reflected on the devastating effect of the Ebola Virus Disease and noted that they were grappling with how they could go about handling it.
“We thought we should do something and we developed a proposal and got support on the study of convalescent plasma,” he revealed. “The blood bank has been transformed tremendously and we can now boldly say that we have all the machines to go about our work.”
He quipped that, “To every cloud there is a silver lining. This Ebola outbreak has brought a silver lining to the blood transfusion service in our beloved country.”
“The blood bank at Connaught Hospital has been given a long deserved facelift, also provided with necessary machines and equipment to be able to provide advanced and excellent service to our people. We are now ever prepared than we ever were,” he disclosed.
President of ClinicalRM, Joseph Sgherza, said they were happy to provide resources for the research and that they would continue to do more to strengthen the health sector in the country.
“ClinicalRM is pleased to see an improved environment for the production and donation of blood and plasma. It is our hope that with continued dedication and commitment from staff, and continued improvements to infrastructure and processes, this study will aid our mission to combat this outbreak and any future outbreak of Ebola,” he said.
Lead Consortium Investigator, Dr. Calum Semple, noted that the study would not have been possible without the skill and commitment of the Sierra Leonean team at the Connaught Hospital and the 34 Military Hospital.
“I am delighted that our research collaboration has gone so well. It gives me great pleasure to know that when Ebola is gone, both the Blood Bank and the Military Hospital will be left in a stronger position and better placed to look after the needs of the people of Sierra Leone,” said Dr. Semple.
Dr. Janet Scott, Clinical Lead from the University of Liverpool’s Institute of Transnational Medicine, noted that “All of our plasma is well and enthusiastically encouraging others to come forward. It has taken a huge amount of work from all teams on the ground. Blood Bank staff even worked with special permission through the lockdown to make the donation programme a success.”
President of the Sierra Leone Association of Ebola Survivors, Yusuf Kabba, expressed hope the study would give hope and encourage people to come forward for treatment.
Ahmed Wurrie, an Ebola survivor, urged other survivors to support the research so that more lives would be saved.
The research was also supported by an Ohio based Contract Research Organisation, the World Health Organisation, and the International Severe Acute Respiratory and Emerging Infection Consortium.