“It was unfortunate, A nurse died from Ebola, she came down with the virus, we do not know where it came from, but you know Liberia has been having cases of Ebola.” - Dominic W. Rennie, Administrator, Redemption Hospital

New Kru Town, Monrovia - On a sunny Tuesday afternoon the scene at a normally busy Redemption Hospital is eerie and quiet, the patient waiting area is empty and the drop of a pin can easily be heard. The hospital seems like a church during weekdays which congregation only gathers on Sundays.

Though not officially shut down, the hospital is not taking patients and many of the nurses and health workers cannot be found at the facility. FrontPageAfrica later learned from a reliable source at the hospital, that many of the nurses decided to boycott work due to fear for their lives, as a result of the death of a nurse last weekend who worked at the facility.

“The nurses did not come today because of the other nurse’s death from Ebola. Even me, I did not come for two days because I was afraid,” said the source that cautioned FPA reporters not to touch anything but be careful how they move about the hospital.

William Nagbe a resident of Jamaica road who came to seek medical treatment at the hospital, which is the only government referral hospital in the area was turned away, after the woman accompanying him told the security guard at the entrance of the facility, that she had brought him for urgent medical attention as he could hardly stand.

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“The hospital closed, we are not accepting patients here. All the nurses gone home,” said the guard who barricaded himself behind the small entrance that looked like an iron cage.

Nagbe who could hardly walk, struggled to sit near the entrance of the facility, after hearing what the security said his jaws dropped and as he did not know what to say or what to do.

“I only came here to treat myself, but the security at the gate did not allow me to enter and this is the first time for this thing to happen to me since I have been taking treatment here,” he said with frustration.

The patient who said he had nowhere else to go as he had already come a far distance from where he lived said, people in his community had been talking about Ebola in New Kru Town but he was confused about it.

“I do not know whether it is the Ebola or not because the people at Redemption are not telling us why we should not enter the hospital. I have been there about three times and they cannot allow me in,” he said.

“I have been hearing about this Ebola business from people in my community, that it is in New Kru Town; but I do not know where they are getting this story from, I do not know whether people are leaving New Kru Town.”

Unexpected death

Mr. Dominic W. Rennie, acting head at the Redemption Hospital told FrontPageAfrica that nurses were not on strike as is being speculated, but said many have stayed away from work because of the death of their colleague from the deadly disease. Though he did not name the nurse who died, Rennie said the disease struck the hospital, when one of its stationed nurses became infected with the deadly virus.

“It was unexpected, I say unexpected because it is not that we did not have the necessary protective gears. It was unfortunate, a nurse died from Ebola, she came down with the virus, we do not know where it came from, but you know Liberia has been having cases of Ebola,” said Rennie.

“The information is that somebody came here and infected the nurse, but that has not been confirmed yet, but she got sick  and was vomiting, and showing signs of the virus. Certain things will suggest that the person is sick, so that is how it happened and she died. It happened something like Tuesday, Wednesday and Saturday she died. After it was noticed, she was isolated and she died.”

Though the facility was empty with no sign of activity from either health workers or patients, Rennie told FrontPageAfrica that the hospital was still in operation, but many of its nursing staff was off work.

“Some people are afraid, even some of the health workers are apprehensive, they might not be here in their full capacity, but some are here and others have gone home. Under normal condition, when people are afraid, we cannot force them to work,” he said.

New Kru Town Residents Doubt Ebola

Residents of New Kru Town seem to be going about their normal activities, but bearing in mind the news that the Ebola virus has killed four persons from their community from the statistics given by the Liberian health ministry.

Ma Kebbeh Tokpa, sells roasted cassava adjacent the hospital, she has said since the death of the health worker, the hospital has closed its doors to the public and nurses have not reported to work.

“Saturday, I just hear that one nurse girl dies in there. She touched some Ebola patient, so the person dies,” she said in broken Liberian English.

“I was just selling my market and see some nurse them was going. Since Saturday up to now the people never take a patient in the hospital. That here I can sell, even every morning before the workers them can come; they can buy cassava from me. I put everything in God.”

Ma Kebbeh said she fears for her life being so close to the hospita,l but at the same time she has to earn money to sustain her family.

“Yesterday this place was upside down; that what making me scary; nobody in the building; my market let it here (here’s my market), I come and put it down only the school children buying,” she said.

“I only heard it from the hospital, but I don’t know how true it is. They said Ebola there but we that are here; we don’t have idea on it. I don’t know the people that die, the Ebola news not affecting my business; people buying. I’m not afraid because I know Ebola not here, the people that saying it, maybe they do not trust their self that why.”

Preventative measures

Rennie said the hospital is putting into place all preventative measures to ensure that the disease does not affect any other person either in the hospital or the community.

“What we are doing now is carrying out fragmentation, chlorine, and other measures and that is not the only solution, we are ensuring that people follow certain good health tips,” he said

“We have sufficient gears for all the nurses, if you even want some, I can give you, we have gears, we have chloride.”

Even though the facility looked desolate, the hospital acting head tried to convince FPA that there were patients in the building, but brushed off the suggestion of a guided tour of the facility, but said the hospital was doing all it could to make the community and the facility Ebola free. He said of the single death at the hospital, he is not aware of any other related case occurring at the facility.

“There were no other deaths from Ebola at this hospital besides the nurse, but there are teams out there in the communities, the representative and the MoH team; so there might be other cases outside the hospital,” he said.

“Government does not intend to hide anything, the hospital does not also intend to hide anything because what are you hiding it for? When it happens, you have to tell people because you who are giving the information could be the next victim.”

Rennie urged that more education be provided to people in the area about the disease, so that they can be able to put in place the right measures for their safety.

“I don’t fear once I have the knowledge, and know what can make people to get the virus and how to prevent it, there is no fear,” he said.

“People who are sick are the ones we are putting under surveillance, but I can’t really tell you the number. When people come sick, we just monitor them. People are coming from Sierra Leone and other places and they are sick.”

The total number of suspected, probable, and confirmed Ebola cases reported in Liberia since the onset of the Ebola outbreak is 28 including: 7 suspected; 5 probable; and 16 confirmed according to the United Nations Children’s Fund report recently released on the status of the deadly disease in Liberia.

“The total number of Ebola related deaths now stand at 16 including: 9 confirmed; 5 probable; and 2 suspected,” states the report.

“5 Confirmed new cases of EVD recorded: 2 in Foya, Lofa County and 3 in Monrovia, Montserrado. The results were received yesterday for 7 tested specimens: 4 are confirmed positive and 3 negative. 6 new contacts have been established from confirmed cases. New admission into treatment units remains now 9 with 1 in Monrovia, Montserrado County and 8 in Foya, Lofa County.”

On Friday, June 13, 2014, health convened an emergency meeting to discuss confirmation of the new cases and deaths in New Kru Town according to the UNICEF report.

UNICEF states that based on its field investigation, a woman from Sierra Leone travelled through Foya, Lofa County to her family in New Kru Town (late May/early June 2014) but was sick on arrival, died and was buried in Liberia though the report did not state the actual area where she was buried.

The organization states also that following the death of the woman; a sick child who happened to be a relative of the dead woman also died and was buried in Liberia.

“On Wednesday, 11 June 2014, 4 persons (caretakers of the woman and child) in the New Kru Town household were sick. 1 was carried to a church for care (St. Moses) and died. The body was transported by taxi and wheelbarrow. Another died at the house in New Kru Town. The field investigation team met the family and was able to collect a specimen from the recently deceased for lab testing,” states the report.

“2 caregivers of the deceased have since reported sick, 1 male and 1 female. The male died in transport to ELWA Hospital. The female is currently under treatment at ELWA Hospital. Specimens were collected from both. 3 specimens collected from the 2 deceased and the 1 patient at ELWA hospital were found positive for Ebola.”

UNICEF also states that so far 12 contacts have been traced adding that there is a need for an intensified contact tracing at a cook shop which is operated from the house in New Kru Town where people have died noting it as critical. The ministry of health is said to have reactivated an ambulance team, a burial team, and are reactivating an alert team as a direct response to the presence of the disease in Monrovia.

Even though there has been a confirmed death from the virus in New Kru Town at the Redemption Hospital the facility is seen lying bare with no team from the health ministry deployed there. Even the security guards who are at the frontline at the facility at the moment are not properly covered to respond to the disease and there are no testing centers set up in New Kru Town though UNICEF disclosed that currently, tents and materials for isolation and care are stored at the Old ministry of health facility.

UNICEF states that it delivered 3,500 posters to Health Ministry, adding that 14 mobilization teams started to increase mobilization in all key towns along the border in Lofa County as of Monday June 16, 2014.

“UNICEF’s current estimated funding requirement for Ebola-related C4D, Health and WASH interventions remains approximately US$ 500,000. As of now, the County Office has received 313,000 from various donors. The funding gap as of today is $187,000. The County Office will, however, revise funding requirements based the recent increase and spread of Ebola,” states UNICEF.