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NEWS : Local News  

Sierra Leone News : Serious Lapses in Freetown ...as Ebola Suspect Escapes PCMH
By Augustine Samba & Bryan Randall
Jul 21, 2014, 12:08
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Events in the night of Friday 18th July 2014 saw the escape from Isolated Observation, of a pregnant woman by the name Mariatu (surname and address withheld) from the Princess Christian Maternity Hospital (PCMH) along Fourah Bay Road. According to medical staff who asked not to be named, Mariatu, from her presenting symptoms, was presumed to be a suspected Ebola case. Blood samples were taken from her and sent to Kenema for testing. It was whilst the medical team were awaiting confirmation that she was advised to be kept under observation in isolation from other pregnant patients.

 

According to numerous residents of Fourah Bay Road, the fracas first happened on Thursday 17th July, when Mariatu's relatives refused the possibility of her being an Ebola patient and vehemently rejected for her to be kept in isolation. Mariatu's relatives and close friends laid siege at the PCMH isolation unit, demanding her release. The police however were called in and managed to quell that riot and send her relatives away that Thursday.


On Friday evening, the relatives came back but with a huge group of well-muscled young men said to have been recruited from places near her residence in Eastern Freetown's Kissy suburbs.


The youths and a loud bunch of women, manhandled the security personnel at the gates, marched to the Isolation room and forcibly helped Mariatu to escape from the hospital. The nurses on duty were threatened and over-powered by the group from Kissy in the east end of Freetown.

 

One of the nurses on duty was slapped and further threatened for attempting to stop the escape. Mariatu was then put on a motorbike which sped off with her under the pouring rain. This newspaper correspondents were right at the scene as Mariatu was being driven off on an okada under a heavy rainfall.

 

"If this lady is found to be positive when the test results are out, it is obvious that the okada rider who drove off with her under the pouring rain, other close relatives and friends who touched her, stand the risk of being infected," a resident of Fourah Bay Road, Madam Rahman pondered.


"With all the reports about Ebola, if these people still do not believe this is a security threat to all of us, they will not come back to the hospital even if they get infected. They are the ones who will hide and continue spreading the disease until the situation gets worse. It is only when they start dying that they will believe. May God help us in this country and give our authorities the wisdom to handle this deadly plague," John Koroma, a university student visiting his sister said.


Neither the security nor the nurses at the PCMH obliged to grant an interview on record except to confirm the dismal incident that a suspected Ebola patient had left the premises without waiting for her test results to come in.

 

However, according to an eyewitness Sorie Kamara, whose pregnant wife was also admitted, the escapee's people became angry when they were refused access to see their loved one.

 

As the matter was being widely discussed on social media, Mr. James Kanu, one of the neighbours of the pregnant woman on Saturday morning, in an exchange with popular musician Nasser Ayoub, stated that the Health officials just wanted to "kill" the pregnant woman. Writing in the local Krio parlance, he stated, (as translated):


"It is lies. They just wanted to kill the family's poor pregnant woman. The lady went to deliver her baby only for her to be told she had Ebola. They locked her up without food and water so she called her people enquiring if they want her to die? That is why her people went to take her away from the hospital. Let these officials get out from in front of citizens. Now commodity prices going up and citizens suffering."

 

Continuing on Facebook to justify the forceful removal of the patient from the hospital, James Kanu wrote to Nasser Ayoub:


"Nasser believe me that people are now afraid to go to hospital when they develop fever. I know the lady in question. Just that the lady's condition was deplorable with the pregnancy and she was weeping in serious pains according to a close relative".

 

Meanwhile, still on social media, another eye-witness to the initial fracas, is popular phone-in texter, Tunde Scott who lives next to the hospital. He wrote thus:

 

"I live next to PCMH and I was fortunate to witness the incident unfolding... I was at PCMH the day before when the riot was on between relatives and medical staffs. One of her relatives was demanding that they must discharge her - 'mekebola go kill wi now naose' - her words. I blame the police at PCMH; why did they allow her to escape? The nurse on duty even received a slap from one of relatives. This is no make-up because I was there up to when the team dealing with suspected Ebola victims arrived in an ambulance at PCMH. Let anyone challenge my facts!"


However, in fairness to the Sierra Leone Police, our press team observed after the incident that adequate security or rather efficient security is not present at the PCMH 'Cottage Hospital'. The police officers on duty were not adequately protected enough to try to restrain an escaping Ebola suspect. Infact, we observed that only one gateman in plain clothes wore gloves that night. The gloves on his hands were stained and filthy giving the impression he had wore them the whole of the day.

 

In further investigations, this newspaper deployed a team to monitor the hospital on Saturday and Sunday and we can confirm that the security personnel stationed there seem ill-equipped to prevent a repeat of the last two riots at their location by Mariatu's relatives.


There are other serious lapses that need attention apart from the inadequate security. During the two days observation of PCMH, we did not see any chlorine water in tapped buckets or soap for washing of hands of visitors and patients moving in or out of the hospital. There was also no evidence of sanitizers for people moving in and out of the various sections of the facility.

 

Most importantly also, there was no sensitization presence; (that is a sort of briefing centre where visitors will be given official sensitization on Ebola and how to contain its spread, especially to convince and warn the unbelievers). Neither the security post nor main entrance to the hospital itself, had any form of active sensitisation about Ebola going on. Throughout the whole two days, we did not see anyone stopping PCMH visitors to speak to them about Ebola.

 

As stated earlier in this report, with the police officers not adequately dressed or protected against contact with an Ebola suspected patient, many observers at the scene told this newspaper that the police should not be blamed for the escape of the suspected Ebola patient.

 

As we went to press, the Ministry of Health & Sanitation has yesterday Sunday 20th July 2014, issued a statement saying the test results from the escaped patient had now come in and it showed the escaped patient was not an Ebola positive patient.

 

"The case been (sic) referred to was kept in the Observation unit at PCMH while (sic) her blood sample was taken to the Kenema Lassa Laboratory for the Ebola test. The test result came out negative and that patient was (sic) longer considered suspected Ebola case" stated the Health Ministry last night.


The Ministry also reported that currently the number of Ebola cases confirmed through laboratory testing in Sierra Leone, was now over four hundred (400) in number and have been reported in all four regions of the country.


© Copyright by Awareness Times Newspaper in Freetown, Sierra Leone.

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