KBNF had the pleasure of Dr. Francis Kateh, Chief Administrator of Jackson F. Doe Regional Referral Hospital in Tappita, Liberia visiting British Columbia this past July. Francis met with KBNF as well as travelled to Vancouver Island and met with the Compassionate Warehouse, our shipping partner. An informative YouTube presentation KBNF Liberian Ebola Update has been prepared in response to the developing crisis. Watch for additional YouTube presentations as they are being made available.
KBNF Liberian Ebola Update
KBNF Board of Directors have decided that mission travel to West Africa this fall will be deferred to 2015, while we focus our energies the remainder of 2014 on project work from North America. While our first container shipment to Tappita, Liberia just arrived, we are ready to ship another container of hospital equipment and supplies including gloves and masks to Liberia. However, funding of this container needs your support.
EBOLA CRISIS UNFOLDING
KBNF IN LIBERIA
Korle-Bu Neuroscience Foundation conducted our first brain and spine surgery mission in Liberia this past May. The Ebola Crisis was beginning to raise the attention of our team and families and the international community at that time. BBC, CNN and other world networks were describing reports of tracking of the Ebola virus from Guinea to Monrovia and Sierra Leone. While in Monrovia, we became aware of a suspected patient being investigated for Ebola at their national hospital’s emergency department. There were no reported cases in Nimba State, our next destination.
DR FRANCIS KATEH
Dr. Francis Kateh, the Chief Administrator of the Jackson F. Doe Hospital and our mission host, has a background in Disaster Preparedness. He kept the team informed of this unfolding Ebola situation. At that time, all effort had been made to ensure our safety and it was felt that the surgical mission could proceed. Consequently, our mission served the people of Liberia for 2 weeks, providing brain and spine intervention to men, women and children.
EDUCATION IS KEY
The first members of our multinational neurosurgery team travelled from Monrovia to Tappita, in the eastern region of the country by helicopter the following day. The remainder of our 16 member team arrived within hours to days by an 8 hour road trip.
The first mission task was lead by Dr. John Sampson, President of DrUMM, KBNF American Affiliate from Johns Hopkins Hospital, Baltimore, Maryland, who was eagerly awaiting our arrival. The priority was and is education. Knowledge is power, knowledge is life saving! One of our respiratory therapists accompanied John out to the nearby village to hand out pictorial pamphlets warning of the deadly Ebola virus to a very eager crowd.
Quickly, the pamphlets were all distributed. Descriptions of the ominous hazards of eating bush meat were provided along with instructions appealing to these villagers to not eat these potentially infected meats. (West Africans explained to our team that bush meat for the villagers, such as rats, bats and monkeys provide much needed protein in their diet and can be very tasty. Beef, chicken and lamb are not readily available or are not affordable.)
The villagers were to inform the Jackson Doe Hospital if any member of their family or community demonstrated symptoms of gastrointestinal distress or bleeding. If the individual died at home, they were instructed to notify the hospital for the isolation, retrieval and disposal of the body. Prevention, pro-action, intervention, all effort was being made to protect the community and the hospital.
The power of the internet was certainly felt as misinformation went viral over facebook, etc. Rumors that Ebola had struck in Tappita put fear into the hearts of relatives abroad, especially for those nationals who are serving on the frontlines. Thankfully, when the internet and phone service was available, reassurance could be given.
ISOLATION UNIT UNDER CONSTRUCTION
Educating the staff and keeping everyone informed was and is of equal importance. Anyone arriving at the hospital gates seeking medical attention are questioned by trained security officers. If there were any concerns, the individual was escorted to a secluded makeshift isolation unit on the outside perimeter of the hospital compound where protected staff investigated the cause of the patient’s symptoms. Thankfully, no patients admitted to Jackson Doe Hospital have tested positive for the Ebola virus.
During our 2 week surgery mission, a permanent 8 room isolation unit was being constructed and is now completed. Educating the public and hospital staff continues to be an ongoing priority. Protective gear, including quality masks, gloves, gowns, are required for all of the team. Efforts are in progress to ensure quality protective gear is available for all frontline staff.
The mission team visited the Liberian / Guinea border crossing and met with the Commissioner, the border patrol and staff (Title photo above). Boxes of disposable gloves donated by members of our mission team were gratefully received.
The spread of the Ebola virus is so virulent, as extensive travel conducted by villagers, the public at large and international community creates a near impossible ability to effectively contain this virus geographically. Consequently, the potential death toll is estimated may rise as high as 20,000 with the global community at very real risk. Leading West African physicians, scarce already, are being snatched away by this deadly virus, leaving a gaping hole in an already seriously compromised West African health care service.
At this juncture, we understand that no elective surgery is being conducted nationally in Liberia. Patients awaiting surgery will be left indefinitely while this viral epidemic is battled. Consequently, surgery missions are curtailed at this present time. You can imagine how elective surgery quickly can evolve to emergent surgeries. These dear people and the nation and region at large are challenged left, right and centre.
Samaritan’s Purse, whom we had the privilege of meeting in Monrovia, have been pulling out all the stops to help care for the afflicted. Many watched the international news as they rescued and recovered one of their own American physicians, Dr. Kent Brantley.
The Ghanaian Physicians and Surgeons Foundation of North America are requesting member support in helping aid the Ebola patients and caregivers. Physicians are accepting the urgent call to give of their time and expertise on the frontline. Ghana Physicians Website
We pray for wisdom and strength for Liberian President Mrs. Johnson-Sirleaf, Francis Kateh and all the President’s team, and for all of our West African national and medical leadership as well as our world leaders, as they work feverishly to get this devastating situation under control and resolved; and for the caregivers that risk their lives daily, as they care for these infected patients in a resource limited environment.
In spite of these very difficult and harrowing times, many champions are rising up and being revealed. KBNF honors and applauds all those that are giving their lives and expertise in finding solutions to this epidemic and saving precious lives.