From Awareness Times Newspaper in Freetown

EDITORIALS
Gross Arrogance & Expired Rapid Diagnostic Test Kits
By Awareness Times Editorial Team
Jun 18, 2014, 17:08

There was a lot of insensitive arrogance by the Minister of Health and Sanitation, Miss Miatta Kargbo during her appearance in Parliament yesterday 17th June 2014 to respond to allegations of incompetence leading to needless deaths of citizens in Kailahun. However one of the heights of insensitivity was the manner in which she discarded a serious allegation that Rapid Diagnostic Test Kits in Kailahun at the time of the outbreak, had EXPIRED since March 2014.

 

Miatta Kargbo was responding to questions from Hon. Mabinty Forna of Tonkolili who quoted from Awareness Times newspaper which was the paper which broke the report of the expired kits. To refresh our memory, let us cite the three instances we have mentioned those expired kits.


On May 27th 2014
, Awareness Times reported that “It is also important to note that one Sia Foryoh who turned up for treatment two Tuesdays ago in Koindu, with symptoms similar to Ebola, got turned away for lack of money to conduct tests. Sia Foryoh has died last weekend with an Ebola-type rash over face. No sample was taken off her. Expiry Date for the Rapid Diagnostic Test Kits sent into Kailahun district is reported as:- March 2014. It means Kits were useless when the outbreak occured.”


On May 30th 2014
, this paper reproduced a Facebook Op-Ed by trained medical doctor, Dr. Sylvia Olayinka Blyden; part of which said, “Frankly, Health Ministry has a lot of reassurances to give because much of what has happened is simply unforgivable to many citizens. Rapid Diagnostic Kits for use on our poor Kailahun people who were at such high risk bordering Guinea, had EXPIRED since March 2014 and they do not want people to raise concerns??? Basic medical training should have made the symptoms of the late MCH Nurse Messie Konneh and Birth Attendant Yawa Korseh patently obvious to be highly suspect of Ebola.”

 

On June 9th 2014, we reported that we “can confirm that despite the fact that Ebola was known to be raging in Guinea and also found in neighbouring Liberia, the Health Ministry did not send protective clothing to many of our hardworking MCH nurses and paramedics in Kailahun. Furthermore, the Rapid Response Diagnostic Test Kits for Kailahun district which would have helped in differential diagnosis to eliminate non-Ebola conditions, had EXPIRED since March 2014”.

 

The indisputable fact is that the said kits in Kailahun had EXPIRED since March 2014. Now, the minister did not answer the question as to why the kits in Kailahun had EXPIRED since March 2014.


So, what are Rapid Diagnostic Test Kits? These are kits used to rapidly diagnose medical conditions in order to eliminate or confirm certain suspected conditions. The symptoms of many diseases like Cholera, Lassa Fever, Malaria and Ebola can be very similar especially with presentations of diarrhoea and vomiting.


For example, if a patient presents with such symptoms, Rapid Diagnostic Test Kits are used by medical personnel to know if it is Cholera or Lassa Fever, Malaria or if none of the above. If the Kits show negative for all these conditions then it means it could be a more sinister condition like Ebola.

 

If an Ebola Crisis was raging next door in Guinea, any serious and competent Health Minister would have ensured the medical staff in areas bordering Guinea, all had the ability to rapidly eliminate non-Ebola conditions like Cholera, Malaria or Lassa fever. This means they would all have been well supplied with good, valid Rapid Diagnostic Test Kits and not the expired nonsense the poor people of Kailahun were left with.

 

There is nowhere in the Awareness Times articles were it has ever been stated the kits were for direct testing for Ebola. Rather, even as recently as June 9th 2014, what was stated was that the kits were meant to “eliminate non-Ebola conditions”.

 

This means when the first patients started to present with diarrhoea and vomiting, if the arrogant, incompetent and ill-suited Health Minister that Sierra Leone is currently encumbered with, had just ensured Rapid Diagnostic Test Kits were available, the health personnel would have tested patients and quickly eliminated other conditions. This would have led to the officials realising with high suspicion that it was Ebola on their hands and not Malaria, Cholera or Lassa Fever.

Instead of acknowledging this serious lapse and apologising for her ministry allowing EXPIRED Rapid Diagnostic Test Kits inside Kailahun since March 2014, the incompetent Health Minister was busy making a mockery of herself yesterday in Parliament by saying she was speaking on behalf of all health professionals around the world about whether Ebola has rapid test kits. Did anyone say Ebola has rapid test kits? No-one did. The fact well highlighted was that such Rapid Diagnostic Test Kits are for differential diagnosis that would have helped to speedily increase suspicion that we had an Ebola outbreak.


Finally, someone was asking yesterday whether a former nursing home work assistant will be able to “speak on behalf of health professionals around the world”? We also ponder on that.



© Copyright 2005, Freetown, Sierra Leone.