Returning to normal: The road to early recovery starts with the health system

April 2015

As part of early recovery efforts, WHO continues to work closely with national authorities and partners in the 3 high-transmission Ebola countries on how to rebuild confidence and trust in health systems and services. Nurse Sai Conteh works at the Kambia Government Hospital and needs to know what to do in case one day a patient with Ebola-like symptoms comes to the hospital. She looks back at what she has learnt and how different her daily work looks like.

Infection prevention and control training, Sierra Leone
Nurse Sai Conteh attending a training on how to better protect herself from becoming infected with Ebola, Sierra Leone
WHO/P. Desloovere

Four weeks ago, Sai Conteh, a senior nurse anesthetist at the Kambia Government Hospital in Sierra Leone, was trained on how to protect herself against becoming infected with Ebola virus. She has never worked before in an Ebola treatment centre. But as part of early recovery efforts, Sai needs to know what to do if one day a patient with Ebola-like symptoms comes to the hospital where she works.

"When Ebola started to hit my country, many health care workers, including myself, had little knowledge on what to do and how to protect ourselves," says Sai. "None of us ever dealt with Ebola patients before or worked in an Ebola treatment centre, as the disease was new to us."

The Kambia government hospital stayed open throughout the Ebola outbreak, even after one of its doctors died of Ebola. For a while, suspected Ebola patients were kept in a separate area in the hospital premises before being transferred to an Ebola treatment centre. Healthcare workers were afraid to continue their work.

"Since I attended the training on infection prevention and control in non-Ebola health facilities, I have organized with my colleagues a training programme on how to better protect ourselves. Staff are trained on how to safely put on and take off the personal protective equipment," says Sai. "We also rearranged the triage area at the entrance of the hospital and made a separate entrance for patients and another one for hospital staff and visitors," she continues. This will help us to be better prepared for the future."

Returning to normal life

Infection prevention and control training, Sierra Leone
Nurse Sai Conteh (left) during the practical session on how to put on personal protective equipment, Sierra Leone
WHO/P. Desloovere

Although the Ebola outbreak is not over yet, an important part of getting back to normal is rebuilding confidence and trust in health systems and services. Early recovery work is about helping people and their communities return to a "normal" life again. This means that children can go back to school, mothers can shop once again at their local markets, and livelihoods are restored.

As part of early recovery efforts, WHO continues to work closely with national authorities and partners in the 3 high-transmission countries on the development of robust national recovery plans aimed at building resilient health systems.

WHO is developing an integrated approach to reactivate health services in each of 3 high-transmission countries with a specific focus on immunization, malaria, newborn and child health, and maternal and reproductive health.

Moving forward, finding the right balance between an active response to the outbreak and reviving recovery systems will be key. Making sure that Kambia Government hospital is better prepared to respond to any future outbreak is the first step in that direction.