Health

Ebola outbreak: weaknesses in health-care systems in Liberia, Sierra Leone revealed

Ebola in West Africa has made it almost impossible for people to get treatment for other ailments, health ministers from the three worst affected countries say.

Expanding health workforce crucial

Liberia's Chief Medical Officer, Bernice Dahn, said the country's Ebola outbreak needs to be contained and routine health-care services need to be revived. (Martial Trezzini/Keystone/Associated Press)

Ebola in West Africa has made it almost impossible for people to get treatment for other ailments, health ministers from the three worst affected countries say.

The health systems in Sierra Leone, Liberia and Guinea were barely functional before the Ebola outbreak struck.

"We want to expand the health workforce because it's crucial for providing quality health care," Dr. Bernice Dahn, Liberia’s chief medical officer, told World Health Organization in Geneva today.

Dahn said in Liberia, 65 per cent of health facilities are closed because health-care workers are getting infected with Ebola. Community members were also afraid to seek health care since the people they were going to were dying.

Dr. Danielle Perreault of Montreal was moved by the plight of Ebola patients as well as other West Africans who don’t have access to health care because of the demands of fighting the epidemic. Perreault heads to Sierra Leone this week.

"You will have lack of transfusion for the pregnant lady or you won't have the surgery for the person that might have a bit of  fever and appendicitis," Perreault said in an interview.

Sierra Leone’s Minister of Health and Sanitation, Dr. Abu Bakarr Fofanah, said there was little ability to test or track the Ebola virus, which allowed the epidemic to spread unchecked for months. There was one laboratory for a population of 6 million that was capable of detecting the virus and the lab is located at the far end of the country.

After the health ministers met with officials from WHO and the World Bank, there was broad agreement to help the countries to build new capacities for lab work, disease surveillance and basic health care to help protect the world from future emerging infectious diseases.

With files from CBC's Pauline Dakin

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