NIGERIA: Lagos ‘Ebola Hospital’ Battles To Recover

NIGERIA: Lagos ‘Ebola Hospital’ Battles To Recover

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                                  Ebola bed. (AFP)
Nigeria
may have been declared officially Ebola-free but at the First
Consultants hospital in Lagos, doctors believe it’ll take the facility
that treated the first victim years to recover.

The 40-bed
private clinic in the bustling Obalende area of the city paid a high
price in the outbreak, after the first patient with the Ebola virus was
admitted on 20 July.

Not only has it
taken a financial hit from having to replace every piece of potentially
contaminated equipment but it also suffered the human loss of
much-respected staff with decades of expertise.

“The most
precious equipment in a hospital are the people. I lost four of my most
important staff,” medical director Benjamin Ohiaeri told AFP.

“In the midst
of this celebration [about Nigeria’s Ebola-free status], people died…
and it’s because of them that this place is a safer place today.”

Liberian
finance ministry official Patrick Sawyer was brought to First
Consultants on 20 July and died five days later, sparking fear about its
spread through Africa’s most populous nation.

The
haemorrhagic fever, which has killed more than 4 500 in west Africa so
far this year, was not initially diagnosed for three days and in that
time, Sawyer infected 11 staff members.

In the entire outbreak in Nigeria, 19 people were confirmed to have contracted the virus and seven died.

Decontamination, losses 

The World
Health Organisation (WHO) on Monday hailed Nigeria’s response to Ebola
as a “spectacular success story”, saying every country should take note
of how it handled the crisis.

Effective
leadership and co-ordination were key to defying naysayers who feared
the country, with its under-funded and ill-equipped public healthcare
system, would struggle to cope.

For Ohiaeri,
the most credit should go to Stella Adadevoh, his most senior doctor and
the person he had expected to take charge after his planned retirement
next year.

Adadevoh
physically stopped Sawyer from leaving, despite pressure from Liberia,
preventing potentially thousands of people in crowded Obalende and
beyond from becoming infected.

“He didn’t want
to be treated. He pulled off his drip, he made sure that blood was
everywhere, he did all kinds of things that were unspeakable and that’s
when people got infected,” Ohiaeri said.

Adadevoh contracted Ebola and later died.

“She had been
working with us for 21 years, one of the most brilliant physicians you’d
have ever met. Humble, diligent, brilliant, I had always trusted her,”
said Ohiaeri.

“How do you replace someone like that?”

After Sawyer’s
death, the entire hospital had to be decontaminated and every piece of
equipment, from the emergency room and laboratory to washing machines in
the laundry, had to be replaced.

The clinic,
which the US-trained Ohiaeri founded in 1982, was shut for two months,
running up losses into the millions of dollars.

Fighting stigmatisation

First
Consultants, though, also faces an uphill battle to regain the trust of
patients, with the stigma of Ebola still present despite Nigeria’s
official all-clear.

The hospital
may be open and immaculately clean but patient numbers are down 10-fold,
while some of its doctors and nurses who survived Ebola say they are
still treated with mistrust.

The four
children of one nurse who had worked for 31 years at First Consultants
and died from the virus were evicted from their home and the hospital
had to find them emergency accommodation.

Dennis Akhaga,
whose wife was a nurse and also died from the virus, said he met
rejection in his community, including being refused access to shops.

He even lost his job with a Nigerian oil firm when his employer found out that his wife had died from Ebola.

Now, just as
they were on the frontline of fighting Ebola in Nigeria, the medics say
they want to help lead an awareness campaign about the virus.

“There’s a need
to let people know more about this,” said Akinniyi Fadipe, a
29-year-old medical officer, who caught Ebola from Sawyer, survived and
is now back at work.

“The same thing
happened for HIV, too. Now, if you see someone with HIV, you won’t be
scared because you know you can’t catch HIV like that.”

The hospital is
steadily trying to get back to normal, with Nigeria told to remain on
high alert while the spread of the virus continues in the west African
region.

Ohaieri said
the time was now right for Nigeria and others to help them, particularly
financially, with other hospitals watching their situation closely.

“It needs to be put out there that how we are treated is very important going forward,” he added.

Source: News 24

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