Liberia: Health Workers Complain of Limited Supply of PPEs, No Medication for Confirmed Coronavirus Victims


MONROVIA – Despite multiple press conferences held by the health authorities on their preparedness to contain the Coronavirus in Liberia, there are emerging reports from the 14 Military Hospital which is being used as a quarantine center for the infected and high-risk individuals, that lack of medication and Personal Protective Equipment (PPEs) remains a major challenge in caring for those quarantined there.

In September 2014, during the height of the Ebola Virus Disease, the lack of PPE, the hazardous material-style suits which guard against infectious diseases, became a major impediment in the fight against the virus, causing nurses to strike, leaving several hundreds of infected persons at the time helpless.

It can be recalled that infected hundreds of Ebola patients were left unattended to outside treatment centers during the outbreak in 2014-2015 which claimed the lives of over 4,000 lives due to lack of beds and PPEs.

There is a looming fear among health workers that if the appropriate measures are not put in place to curtail the Novel Coronavirus, the country would slip back in that era.

At the 14 Military Hospital, health workers who asked not be named expressed disenchantment over lack of sufficient PPEs. This, they say, is making it difficult for them to attend to the confirmed and high-risk cases there. They informed FPA that they often have to wear one PPE on multiple occasions.

According to the health officers, no medication has been administered to the confirmed cases and they often rely on family members to bring in food and other medication like vitamins c, b complex to help boost their immune system.

“The patients are so far stable but they are not receiving any treatment yet. No doctor has come to see them. How can you say someone is infected with Coronavirus and you don’t treat the person; you’re only observing the person?” the health worker told FrontPageAfrica.

It can be recalled that the driver of the Dr. Nathaniel Blama in an interview with a local FM station said he was abandoned in the ambulance at the entrance of the 14 Military Hospital for more than six hours without being attended to.

In that interview, he threatened to leave since no one was attending to him.

FrontPageAfrica further gathered that the Mr. Blama’s cook who was also diagnosed of the virus was also left in the ambulance at the entrance of the hospital for hours without anyone attending to him.

A relative to one of the confirmed cases expressed worries over the manner in which his family member has been abandoned at the treatment center without any medical attention.

But responding to FPA inquiry during a press briefing on Thursday, Chief Medical Officer, Dr. Francis Kateh refuted allegations that health workers are short on PPEs.

He said they have sufficient PPEs and more are being procured.

According to him, because of the heat the PPE generates, the health workers only go in to those quarantined twice a day, wearing the PPE on each occasion and taking it off after.

Relating to medication for the confirmed cases, he said, “It depends on the kind of virus; we really don’t have a treatment for viruses and your immune system have the ability to fight.

So, what we do is that we carry out supportive treatment based on symptoms.”

He added: “When you have fever we give the medication to drop it and so forth while your body keeps fighting the disease, and so those that we have there, when they say there are no PPEs, treatment, and so forth, it is because they are stable, there’s no sign of fever.”

Similar Situation in US, Europe

The New York Times reported that an intensive-care nurse in Illinois, Chicago, was told to make a single-use mask last for five days.

An emergency room doctor in California said her colleagues had started storing dirty masks in plastic containers to use again later with different patients.

A pediatrician in Washington State, trying to make her small stock last, has been spraying each mask with alcohol after use, until it breaks down.

“The situation is terrible, really terrible,” said Dr. Niran Al-Agba, 45, the pediatrician. “I don’t think we were prepared.”

Dr. Al-Agba was one of hundreds of health care workers this week who appealed to the public for help confronting the coronavirus pandemic, which has sickened thousands and killed more than 140 people in the United States.

As hospital supplies have dwindled, the vice president has called on construction companies to donate masks, the surgeon general has urged the public to stop buying them, and experts have warned that, the more doctors and nurses who get sick, the greater strain on a system already stretched thin.