The outbreak of the Ebola virus in West Africa got to another height on Monday, 1 September, 2014 when nurses at Liberia’s largest hospital went on strike over the deadly disease.
According to a report published by the AFP, the health workers were demanding better pay and equipment to protect them against the Ebola epidemic which has killed hundreds in the west African nation.
Speaking on their demands, John Tugbeh, spokesperson for the strikers at Monrovia’s John F Kennedy hospital, said the nurses would not return to work until they are supplied with “personal protective equipment (PPEs)”, the hazmat-style suits which guard against infectious diseases.
“From the beginning of the Ebola outbreak we have not had any protective equipment to work with. As result, so many doctors got infected by the virus. We have to stay home until we get the PPEs,” he said.
The Ebola virus, transmitted through contact with infected bodily fluids, has killed more than 1 550 people in four countries since the start of the year – almost 700 of them in Liberia, according to a recent report published by the World Health Organisation, WHO.
A high proportion of the deaths – almost a tenth – have been among health workers and the WHO has warned that the outbreak is set to get a lot worse, predicting up to 20 000 cases before it is brought under control.
It was gathered that the surgical section at JFK is the only trauma referral centre in Liberia and a long-term dispute would severely damage the country’s capability to respond to the Ebola crisis.
It would be recalled that the hospital closed temporarily in July over the infections and deaths of an unspecified number of health workers who had been treating Ebola patients.
“We need proper equipment to work with [and] we need better pay because we are going to risk our lives,” Tueh said.
As at the time of compiling this report, management of the hospital has not make a statement over the crisis, hence it is not clear how large the striking group was, or what contingency plans were in place at the hospital.
Meanwhile, in a statement released earlier on Monday, Liberia’s President Ellen Johnson Sirleaf ordered most civil servants in the country to stay at home for another month in an effort to stop the spread of the deadly Ebola virus.
President Sirleaf ordered non-essential workers not to come to work and promised that all government workers would still be paid.
It would be recalled that Liberia’s schools are already closed in the effort to keep large numbers of people from gathering and potentially spreading the disease.
Apart from Liberia, other West African countries that have suffered deaths from Ebola are Nigeria, Guinea, and Sierra Leone.
But On Friday, Senegal announced its first case.
The WHO said a student from Guinea arrived in Dakar by road on 20 August and was staying with relatives “in the outskirts of the city”.
It was informed that the unnamed student went to a medical facility on 23 August seeking treatment for fever, diarrhoea and vomiting, all symptoms of Ebola.
He was treated for malaria and continued to stay with his relatives before turning up at the Dakar hospital on 26 August.
Nigeria has already recorded six deaths from the Ebola virus since the late Liberian diplomat, Patrick Sawyer, brought the disease to Lagos on 20 July.