Sierra Leoneans abandoned over Ebola fears
The deadly virus has killed 2,758 people in Sierra Leone
Health authorities in Sierra Leone have raised concerns about patients being abandoned by their families at hospitals, even after testing negative for the deadly Ebola virus.
"A lot of people have turned up in hospital as a result of 'Operation Western Area Surge'," Isatu Kamara, matron of the Connaught Hospital, capital Freetown's main government referral hospital, told The Anadolu Agency.
In a recent address, President Ernest Bai Koroma announced plans to conduct house-to-house searches in the capital – a hot spot for rapid virus transmission – in hopes of identifying suspected Ebola infections.
Kamara said people had been reporting to hospital in large numbers due to fears of being reprimanded by officials in the event that sick people are found in their homes.
"There have been warnings of some form of punishment on radio programs, so families are turning sick patients into hospitals for fear of the consequences from government officials if these sick people are found at home during the ongoing search," she said.
"When these patients are brought in, we treat them as suspected Ebola cases," said Kamara.
"Those who test negative for Ebola are admitted in the outpatient ward in order to treat them for malaria or typhoid, which is the most commonly diagnosed," she explained.
"The problem we're facing now is that after they start feeling better, no one shows up to take them home," Kamara lamented.
Pointing to the full beds in the outpatient ward, she said the hospital was already overstretched and could not admit any more patients.
"As you can see, the outpatient ward is full," Kamara told AA.
She said such patients placed an additional burden on hospital administrators.
"These people are destitute," Kamara added. "Even after we discharge them, they just hang around the hospital corridors. This should not be the case; they should go home."
"But some are still too weak to go by themselves," she added. "They need families or relatives to take them."
In recent months, Ebola – a contagious disease for which there is no known treatment or cure – has killed 7,905 people, mostly in West Africa, according to the World Health Organization.
In Sierra Leone alone, the deadly virus has claimed a total of 2,758 lives.
One such patient who was discharged by the hospital but has yet to return home is 42-year-old Abu Conteh.
He was picked up by a government ambulance after a neighbor reported his illness via a government phone hotline devoted to suspected Ebola infections.
Conteh tested negative for Ebola, but positive for malaria.
But even though he has been treated and is now ready to go home, his family has yet to come for him.
"In the past two days I have tried several times to call my younger sister and tell her… to come see me here, but she has not come," Conteh told AA. "She has just made excuses."
When asked what his next step would be if he was not picked up from the hospital by his family, Conteh said he could not leave the hospital by himself.
"I am still feeling week; my feet are still swollen," he told AA.
Mahawa Koroma, another discharged patient, faces the same plight.
"I was discharged yesterday, but since my sister did not come, I slept out here in the hospital entrance on a wooden bench," she told AA.
Koroma said that she wanted to go home but could not afford to hire a taxi. Even if she could, she lamented, it would be difficult for a taxi to take her, given her poor health.
"I am kindly asking the government to send us back home, since they are the ones that brought us here," she pleaded.
Matron Kamara, for her part, called on families to work with officials to help and support their sick relatives.
"If your relative is being taken to the hospital, that doesn't mean they have Ebola," she said.
"Please endeavor to follow up in order to know how they are faring, because if they are negative [for Ebola]… they need to go home," she urged. "Don't just abandon them."
Last Modified: 2015-01-05 16:03:11
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