Médecins Sans Frontières (MSF) has taken the very difficult decision to temporarily suspend medical activities at Gondama Referral Centre (GRC), near Bo in Sierra Leone because of the strain the current response to the Ebola outbreak in West Africa has put on the organisation’s capacity in the country. Overwhelmed teams means MSF cannot guarantee the extremely high quality needed to treat patients and protect MSF’s staff from infection.
Before Ebola hit Sierra Leone, Gondama Referral Centre was a 200-bed referral hospital that provided life-saving health services for children under 15 and for women in need of urgent obstetric and gynaecological care. With more than 8,000 paediatric and 2,500 emergency obstetrical and gynaecological admissions, GRC was a lifeline for many in Bo district and beyond.
In July, MSF already had to close the maternity as basic safety measures could not be provided to our staff and risk of infection was too high. As of 15th October, GRC will not admit new children. Ebola has taken its toll and, activity in the hospital in recent weeks has been much lower than previous years at the same period, mainly because people are reluctant of bringing patients to hospitals for fear of Ebola infection. By mid-October, there were less than 50 patients in the hospital.
“It has been a very tough decision to make as we know that thousands of women and children rely on our services in the district and beyond” said Brice de le Vingne, MSF Director of operations. “But the safety of our staff must remain our top priority and if we cannot guarantee flawless infection control in the hospital, we are putting our staff and patients at risk.”
“It is our intention to resume our activities in GRC as soon as possible, but for that we need to first put all our energy in fighting Ebola” added de le Vingne. “We really hope that in a few months, we’ll be able to focus once again on treating mothers and children as they are now being affected as Ebola collateral damage.”
In Sierra Leone, MSF currently employs 107 international and 1,376 national staff. The organisation runs two Ebola management centres in Sierra Leone: Bo and Kailahun. Since the beginning of its Ebola intervention in the country in May 2014, MSF admitted 843 patients including 584 confirmed Ebola cases. 229 of them have recovered.