International Medical Corps begins admitting patients today at a new Ebola Treatment Center in Sierra Leone’s hard-hit Port Loko District. It is the first dedicated Ebola treatment facility in the district, which has among the highest number of suspected and confirmed cases in the country.
The large-scale facility in the town of Lunsar, some 70 miles from the capital, Freetown, has three separate wards to isolate suspected, probable and confirmed cases. International Medical Corps intends to treat 10 patients during the center’s first week of operation, scaling up daily in the weeks ahead to at least 50 beds.
So far, more than 150 staff members—from doctors, nurses and counselors to cleaners, chlorinators and sprayers—have received intensive and specialized training for their critical roles, all aimed at providing safe, quality and dignified care to patients, while ensuring maximum protection for staff, visiting family and the surrounding community. Recruitment and training of additional medical, psychosocial and support staff will be ongoing to accommodate the increasing caseload.
“The crisis in Port Loko District is dire and getting worse. We’ve been working around the clock to get the facility open and our teams will be treating and caring for patients 24 hours a day. We hope to be at full capacity soon, but a phased start is crucial to ensure seamless and safe operations,” says Hussein Ibrahim, International Medical Corps’ Emergency Response Team Director in Sierra Leone.
The number of suspected and confirmed cases of Ebola continue to steadily climb in Sierra Leone. The latest Ministry of Health and Sanitation estimates indicate 6,535 cases and 1,699 deaths. As of November 22, the number of confirmed Ebola cases reported in Port Loko District is 779, the second highest in the country.
The center will provide rapid diagnosis and quality care for infected patients, increasing their chance of survival and reducing transmission of the virus. The center will also provide urgent relief for the district’s overwhelmed health system so that local hospitals and clinics can resume their routine and vital services, and refer Ebola patients to a specialty facility.
International Medical Corps’ Ebola Treatment Center in Lunsar was constructed entirely by local contractors and builders, putting back to work hundreds of people whose jobs were lost by the health crisis. More than 90 percent of the staff at the site are and will continue to be Sierra Leonean, the majority from the country’s north.
“Our entire team is deeply committed to stemming the outbreak and giving patients, families and survivors the strength and support they need to overcome the pain, grief, fear and isolation associated with Ebola,” says Ibrahim. “This facility will be a big step forward to containing the epidemic here and giving hope to the community that an end to the crisis is in sight.”