Tuesday, December 9, 2014

Ebola Bottleneck



There is an extremely long list of issues that are making the Ebola outbreak in West Africa difficult to deal with. From lack of health care infrastructure, to cultural practices, to the fear that the virus is instilling in people not only in West Africa, but around the world. One commonly mentioned problem is a lack of doctors to help treat Ebola stricken patients whose number is growing almost exponentially in countries like Liberia and Sierra Leone. For primarily this reason, the EIS officer from the Ebola panel at the beginning of the year (whose name eludes me) said that, “boots on the ground” were the most important thing to help end the epidemic. Boots on the ground are definitely vital to fighting the growing epidemic; however, trained boots on the ground is really what will make the impact. 

An article from the Washington Post describes how these boots on the ground are not always being properly trained and utilized. Cuba sent 256 doctors, nurses, and epidemiologists to West Africa 2 months ago to help treat patients and slow the growth of the epidemic. Now, a good number of them are still “…hang[ing] around a hotel pool, holding daily meetings to bolster their morale, crowding around a computer to learn more about the theory of Ebola treatment,”. Doctors without Borders has been trying to train these, among other healthcare practitioners, as quickly as possible, but it is difficult to keep pace especially with so many good doctors dying during the epidemic as well. Doctors without Borders said in regards to training: “Training people to safely operate Ebola case management facilities and carry out other necessary activities takes weeks of theoretical and hands-on training ... this bottleneck has created major delays”. To make it even more difficult, language barriers, as inane as it sounds, have been a large impediment in training as well. 

Foreign governments have been trying to set up treatment centers and training facilities; Guinea is opening its own training center as well, but training is a very meticulous process, especially for a virus as lethal as Ebola. I don’t have the simple solution to this problem, and I’m not convinced that there is one, but hopefully the Ebola treatment training process begins to speed up as we become more accustomed to treating its symptoms.

-              -  Eddie Irvine

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