MSF - Doctors have to make tough decisions

2014-10-14 14:00

Johannesburg - Medicines Sans Frontieres (Doctors Without Borders) staff on Tuesday spoke about the tough decisions they had to make while working in West Africa where the Ebola virus has crippled health care systems.

Paediatrician Dr Julia Switala told reporters in Johannesburg: "Some hospitals are abandoned by staff and patients for fear of Ebola.

"We kept on working but the risk of Ebola transmission during emergency births where there is bleeding is high."

"Ebola has also meant our team had to take the toughest decision yet, to stop resuscitating children because the risk is too great of a potentially Ebola-sickened child's vomit or saliva infecting the few nurses and doctors."

At least 18 South African doctors working for MSF have been assigned to work in West Africa as part of MSF's international Ebola response.

Switala said she spent four months in Sierra Leone where she had initially worked at a children's hospital which had to be changed to an Ebola centre due to the high rate of infections and transmission of the virus.

Spread of virus

The report said the Ebola virus outbreak has already killed more than 4 000 people, mostly in Guinea, Liberia and Sierra Leone.

Underfunded health systems in West Africa have been crippled by the virus, which has spiralled out of control and infected 7 400 people since the beginning of the year.

Switala was among a group of four doctors sharing their experiences of being at the centre of the outbreak and the fight against the virus.

She said the world had to unite and called on South Africans to assist in the fight against the spread of the virus.

Until Ebola could be brought under control, other medical conditions would remain unattended to.

"We have to beat Ebola first before we can get back to dealing with the massive health problems," she said.

  • Geoff Skelton - 2014-10-14 15:03

    I admire the dedication of all of the volunteers in this crisis. But - the borders should still be closed and those countries completely quarantined until the disease has been controlled. It does not help spreading it to other countries. People who are still travelling to these countries for non absolutely essential reasons are totally irresponsible. Travel in is ok but leaving should be stopped or quarantined for 3 weeks.

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