Something alarming is happening in Bong County. Our Correspondent Marcus Malayea reported yesterday that within one week, 73 new Ebola cases have been turned up there.
This is a very serious development demanding the immediate and decisive response by the Ministry of Health and Social Welfare (MoHSW) and the other leading stakeholders including Medecin sans Frontier and the American health and military contingent with the expertise and resources to marshal (organize, assemble) the appropriate and swift intervention required.
It seems to us that there are three types of interventions required right now. First, we need an intense and comprehensive AWARENESS campaign. Correspondent Malayea says not only are many Bong people still in denial of Ebola’s existence; but they don’t want to follow the rules.
Dr. Sampson Azaokoi, the Chief County Health Officer, told a press conference at Phebe Hospital this week that the rapid spread of the virus is a direct result of the attitude problems on the part of the local residents, who fail to adhere to measures announced by the Health authorities. Dr. Azakoi referred to “the entrenched culture of silence” in the county, meaning that people are refusing to report or bring their sick relatives and friends to the testing centers.
He further lamented that those suspected of the virus or show symptoms “are not prepared to be quarantined, nor are they willing to report to the health facilities for early treatment.”
Dr. Azakoi warned that should these negative attitudes of the Bong County people continue, it will lead to “a breakdown of the fabric of the society.”
This critical circumstance warrants the direct intervention of the MoHSW Minister, Dr. Walter Gwenigale, who is himself a son of Bong County and knows the culture and language of the people. Can he assist the Awareness Teams in formulating clear, concise and emphatic messages that the people will understand and accept? Or at least offer some suggestions to the teams as to the manner of approach that will win the people’s confidence and acceptance?
A massive awareness promotion campaign seems to be most urgently needed in Bong County at this time.
The second intervention urgently needed in Bong is the revamping of the testing and treatment centers in the county. These centers need more trained staff, equipment, food and water to adequately care for the patients.
The health workers also need more personal protection equipment (PPE). This will reduce their fear of exposure to the virus. We recall that Bong’s two major hospitals, Phebe and C.B. Dunbar, were closed for a period because health workers stayed away for fear of contracting the virus and dying as did many of their co-workers.
Thirdly, Correspondent Malayea reported that health workers do not believe that the MoHSW “is doing enough to encourage them to provide services around the country.
Yesterday’s editorial tried to address this problem. But it was pegged to the “go-slow” action by health workers at Island Clinic in Monrovia. Now the health workers in Bong County are saying the exact same thing: they are not happy.
Dr. Gwenigale and his team must find a way to decisively address this burning issue which, it seems to us, is a matter of urgency nationwide.
We are faced today with the worst health crisis in our history. Never before have we seen our people dropping dead in so many places around the country—and it is not getting better yet. Here now is Bong County in the focus of the crisis. Now is NOT the time for government and health workers to be quarreling. No!
The GOL alone, of course with the support of the development partners, can resolve this impasse between health workers and their bosses. We fear that so long as the impasse maintains, so long will our fight against this deadly virus be undermined. For who can do without the health workers? We need ALL of them on board.