More hospital beds for Liberia

September 2014

Doctors and nurses are the people who immediately come to mind as critical to controlling the Ebola outbreak in west Africa. But there are many others whose jobs are no less critical: engineers, architects, plumbers and construction workers.

Before opening of the Ebola treatment centre - the Island Clinic - in Monrovia, Liberia, 2014
WHO/M. Seeger

“One of our greatest challenges is that we urgently need hundreds of additional hospital beds for treatment of patients with Ebola. At present, dozens of people are being turned away from treatment centres every day because they are full - or overfull,” says Dr Peter Graaff, WHO Representative in Liberia.

“No health workers infected”

Main message of the WHO training

But work is under way to establish Ebola treatment centres to meet that need. One of them – the Island Clinic, in Monrovia – is days away from opening its doors. WHO and its partners have supported construction of this new centre, which will be able to provide treatment for 120 patients at a time. Additional centres for about 400 more patients will be completed in the coming weeks.

It took careful planning to transform the Island Clinic, which formerly served as a general health facility, into one that will meet WHO standards for the safety of both patients and health workers. That means creating a “red zone” frequented exclusively by patients with confirmed Ebola virus disease and health workers wearing personal protective equipment; plus a “green zone” that is free of any Ebola contamination.

Focus on safety of patients and health workers

The centre has set up a strict system for separating patients with suspected Ebola from those in whom the disease has been confirmed. Health workers must follow rigorous infection prevention and control measures and will not be able to leave the red zone until they have disposed of their personal protective equipment and showered.

A safe, reliable water supply is a critical requirement and this centre has 4 new 6000 litre tanks of water and 2 reserve tanks in addition to the existing 4 tanks.

Before opening of the Ebola treatment centre - the Island Clinic - in Monrovia, Liberia, 2014
WHO/M. Seeger

Safe sanitation and waste disposal are also essential. The hospital’s septic tanks have been rehabilitated by installing an exhaust system and providing for safe removal of all waste. Two incinerators have been built to burn used personal protective equipment and medical waste.

The planned opening of the new treatment centres is providing a sense of hope in the country that is bearing the heaviest brunt of the Ebola outbreak. Liberia’s President, Ellen Johnson Sirleaf, herself visited the clinic to see the progress on the renovation.

WHO is also supporting the training of hundreds of health workers who will work in Liberia’s Ebola treatment centres. “No health workers infected” is one of the main messages of the training. It is a message worth repeating again and again. For health workers are still among the people at the highest risk of becoming infected with Ebola.