Sierra Leone: Inspiring confidence and trust in Ebola care
In Sierra Leone’s Magazine Wharf, there are mixed perceptions around Ebola response systems. Ambulance services are met with especial scepticism. Many fear that a trip in the ambulance will end in death in an Ebola treatment centre or holding unit. Others are worried that the ambulance has not been properly disinfected.
WHO decided to stage a public ambulance demonstration in Magazine Wharf. The WHO team worked with partner teams from Handicap International, the Social Mobilization Action Coalition (SMAC) and UNICEF. One team acted out the different steps taken to ensure that ambulances take people safely from home to health facility.
A young man begins experiencing stomach pains and other symptoms of Ebola virus disease. He approaches his home and family, seeking shelter and comfort.
Here, the patient is closely observed by his family. They have contacted the authorities through the 117 Call Centre and are watching over him without touching him. They know that it is unwise to have any physical contact to reduce the likelihood of the disease spreading to those immediately around him.
Health workers arrive and begin the process of donning their personal protective equipment. Until the young man is tested for Ebola virus, they must take precautions to make sure they also do not become infected.
The team is now ready to assist the patient. It is important for the them to be certain the young man and his family feel safe and are treated with dignity and respect. Two members of the team will assist the young man, while the other 2 disinfect his family’s home.
The team approach the patient. He is feverish and has fallen onto his bed, delirious. The team gently turn him so he can be placed on a gurney and moved to the ambulance.
The patient is removed from his home and the team begin to carry him to the ambulance that will take him to an Ebola treatment centre for further evaluation.
The community in Magazine Wharf are shown the inside of the ambulance to assure them that the ambulance is clean and has been properly disinfected. If the young man is not sick with Ebola, he will know he will not become infected with the virus in the ambulance.
The young man is loaded into the ambulance and can now be safely transported to an Ebola treatment centre.
The second team approaches the home of the suspected case and begins the process of disinfecting and making it safe for his family members. They will spray his belongings with a chlorine solution and then remove the items from his home. A waste management team will dispose of these items. When the young man is better and leaves the Ebola treatment centre, he will be provided with new bedding and any other items that were destroyed during the disinfection process.
The people of Magazine Wharf responded positively to the demonstration. The partners will now run similar demonstrations in other communities in Sierra Leone.