With the number of people being infected with Ebola rising to above 10,000 it is not surprising that doctors such as Paul Arkell want to get back out to the epicentre of the disease.
A former student from the University of Birmingham, Dr Arkell has recently returned from Sierra Leone where he was working with the KSLP (Kings Sierra Leone Partnership) organisation on a long-term development project when the first outbreak of the disease occurred.
As one of the volunteer doctors who contributed to keeping one of the only hospitals in Freetown open he spoke of the difficulties that arose with the first cases of the disease in the capital.
With the first appearance of Ebola in Sierra Leone and the growing awareness of it’s infectious nature many hospitals throughout Freetown were met with a sharp reduction in their workforce; as many underpaid members of staff were not turning up to work for fear of the spreading disease.
With a continuing reduction in hospital staff as well as a limited supply of resources, medical teams throughout the capital city were stretched thinly in tackling the epidemic. Dr Arkell spoke of the lack of equipment and resources in Freetown in a lecture at the University of Birmingham on Thursday 23rd October. He stressed how, at the hospital in which he worked, there were only eighteen beds equipped to treat the disease and the time it took to turn around lab tests was alarmingly slow at the beginning of the outbreak.
As one of the first three countries to have been hit by the disease along with Guinea and Liberia the work done by Dr Arkell and his colleagues was met with suspicion and mistrust. As a volunteer doctor working at the Connaught hospital in Freetown he spoke of the “many conflicts that occurred between hospital staff and the families of patients” as healthcare workers warned them of the dangers of contact with their loved ones and traditional burial.
With the number of healthcare workers known to be infected with the disease reaching 450, of which 127 of those cases are in Sierra Leone the willingness of Dr Arkell and others like him to return to carry on battling the disease is commendable.
It is unclear when this outbreak will end as the number of those becoming infected with Ebola is soaring along with the percentage of the population who are now becoming vulnerable to infection.
However with five new vaccines being fast tracked, hundreds of millions being invested into countering Ebola and the return of medics like Dr Arkell, the efforts to counter the disease are unceasing.
Although there is not yet any long term solution to this growing epidemic, the efforts of those leading the battle against Ebola offers some hope to reducing the timeframe of this increasing epidemic.
Photo Credits: Alamy