Sierra Leone: MSF Suspends Emergency Pediatric and Maternal Services in Gondama


BRUSSELS—Doctors Without Borders/Médecins Sans Frontières (MSF) has made the very difficult decision to temporarily suspend medical activities at its hospital near Bo, Sierra Leone, because of the strain of responding to the Ebola outbreak in the country, the organization said today.

Before Ebola hit Sierra Leone, MSF's Gondama Referral Center (GRC) served as a 200-bed referral hospital providing lifesaving services for children under 15 and for women in need of urgent obstetric and gynecological care. With more than 8,000 pediatric and 2,500 emergency obstetrical and gynecological admissions per year, GRC was a lifeline.

Due to the Ebola outbreak, MSF could not guarantee the extremely high quality of medical services needed to treat patients and protect MSF's staff at GRC and from Ebola infection.

"It has been a very tough decision to make as we know that thousands of women and children rely on our services in the district and beyond," said Brice de le Vingne, MSF director of operations. "But the safety of our staff must remain our top priority, and if we cannot guarantee flawless infection control in the hospital, we are putting our staff and patients at risk."

In July, MSF already had to close the maternity as basic safety could not be ensured for staff and the risk of Ebola infection was too high. As of October 15, GRC will not admit new children. Because of the toll exacted by the Ebola outbreak, activity in the hospital has declined significantly over recent weeks, mainly because people are reluctant to bring patients to hospitals for fear of Ebola infection. By mid-October, there were fewer than 50 patients in the hospital.

In Sierra Leone, MSF continues to employ 107 international and 1,376 national staff who are operating two Ebola management centers — one in Bo and one in Kailahun. Since the beginning of its Ebola intervention in the country in May 2014, MSF's Ebola centers in Sierra Leone have admitted 843 patients, including 584 confirmed Ebola cases. A total of 229 Ebola patients have recovered.

"It is our intention to resume our activities in GRC as soon as possible, but for that we need to first put all our energy in fighting Ebola," said de le Vingne. "We really hope that in a few months, we'll be able to focus once again on treating mothers and children."