In order to be able to identify Ebola cases in our children’s hospital in Freetown as early as possible, we have set up a screening and isolation ward within just a few weeks – unfortunately without the financial support of the Ministry of Foreign Affairs, but with the help of our donors.
“We are very happy about the commitment and trust of our donors and we would like to thank each and every one of them!” says Werner Strahl, head of Cap Anamur, who two months ago gained his own impression of the situation in the children’s hospital.
During these hours the final preparations are running at full speed for the opening of the new isolation ward. On the weekend, the first Ebola patients and possible Ebola cases are going to be received. The patients are housed, cared for and tested for Ebola in isolation from one another under the strictest safety precautions. The new building offers enough space to house 21 patients isolated from one another.
Our doctors and nurses face an immense psychological and physical challenge – because the risk of infection is omnipresent. Due to the heat, working in protective suits is an enormous physical burden and hardly possible for more than 40 minutes. Immediately after use, the suits must be destroyed due to the high risk of infection.
The need for protective clothing is therefore extremely high – about 60 suits including masks, gloves and rubber boots are needed daily by our medical staff. At a price of 22 Euros per set, the cost is 1,320 Euros per day – only for protective clothing!
Just putting on and taking off the protective suits is very laborious and involves more than 40 steps.
These must be strictly adhered to, because this is the only way to avoid contact with possibly contaminated material. Every one of our employees therefore trains this procedure in several dry runs until it fits perfectly. A supervisor monitors every step.
At the moment, our most important task is to keep the hospital running. This is the only way we can prevent the death of children with diseases that are actually easy to cure, such as malaria or pneumonia. In addition to our team from Germany, we would like to thank the 100 local employees – doctors, nurses, social workers, technicians and logisticians: they enable us to continue to operate the children’s hospital and the street children’s home even in times of Ebola.
Construction of a laboratory
In order to deal with the steadily growing number of Ebola infected people and suspected cases, Cap Anamur is planning to set up its own specially secured laboratory.
One of the biggest problems in fighting the epidemic is the long waiting time for the test results. There are only three laboratories in all of Sierra Leone where blood samples can be tested for the highly infectious virus. A backlog of hundreds of samples has now formed – and more are added every day. Only a small fraction of suspected cases can therefore be tested. We currently have to wait for the results 7 to 10 days. For the affected patient this means spending a long period of agonizing uncertainty in complete isolation. The result could be available within a day with sufficient laboratory capacity. Another devastating consequence: during this time, the patient “blocks” one of the urgently needed isolation bed.