19 September 2014

Ebola outbreak: A day in the life of a clinic manager in Liberia

The Ebola outbreak has thus far claimed the lives of over 2,630 people and infected over 5,000. Over half of the deaths from Ebola have been in Liberia.

(9/19/2014) In Monrovia, Liberia, SOS Children’s Villages continues to operate its medical center on a 24-hour basis. The clinic is one of very few medical centers in the country that remain open to the public. 


SOS Children’s Villages sat down with Quendi Appleton, the administrator of the SOS Medical Center in Monrovia, to get a sense of what it is like to run a medical clinic while the country battles the most severe Ebola outbreak to date.  Appleton grew up in SOS Children’s Village Monrovia with her four siblings after their parents died. She was blessed with an ability to communicate compassionately and effectively with people from all walks of life – adults and children alike. And her ability to remain highly effective in the face of emergencies was made evident during Liberia’s horrific civil war; she was on her feet up to 13 hours a day, every day, helping children in this very clinic. 
Today, Appleton manages the medical clinic.
Q: Quendi, the Ebola virus death toll is rising dramatically, and there are other diseases – such as malaria and cholera – that continue to kill many people, especially children, in Liberia. At this difficult time, what are the consequences of so many clinics and health centers closing in Monrovia and across the country?
A: The situation is very difficult. Yes, of course we still have other diseases like malaria, as well as typhoid and pneumonia.  Everyone is overloaded and the Ministry of Health (MOH) is overstretched. Fortunately, at our clinic we have been able to continue to manage the treatment of other illnesses.
Q: How many patients do you currently treat at the SOS clinic on a daily and weekly basis?
A: We treat between 50 and 60 people every day. We actually see more children than adults now. Of these 50 to 60 people, 30 to 40 are children, and the majority of them come to the clinic because they have cases of high fever, malaria, typhoid or pneumonia, among other conditions.
Q: The Monrovia clinic does not treat Ebola patients. What do you and your SOS colleagues do when you believe someone may have the virus?
A: When we have a suspected case, we call a team from the MOH, which is in charge of handling Ebola. The MOH team transports the patients to designated Ebola medical centers. Of the patients with suspected cases whom we have referred to date, approximately 19 have tested positive and three of those patients were children. 
Q: Have you experienced any critical situations during the last several weeks at the medical clinic? 
A: Yes, we have. We received a patient with Ebola symptoms. As usual, we immediately called the MOH team to arrange the transfer. Owing to the severe workload of the MOH and its consequent delay, we responded in the interim by taking all necessary precautions while the patient remained at our clinic. Unfortunately, the patient died. 
Q: How do your colleagues at the clinic cope with the extreme pressure and risk of infection? What gives them motivation and hope? 
A: We were really motivated by the Personal Protective Equipment (PPE) we received two weeks ago. In addition, our management team is very supportive. 
Q: Currently, what are the biggest challenges you are facing at the medical center?  
A: Although we have the basic materials and our management is very supportive, we are at risk of running out of Personal Protective Equipment (PPE). This is the biggest challenge for us.
SOS Medical Center in Monrovia: Offering medical care, and remaining vigilant to ensure safety
The SOS Health Clinic Monrovia has been in operation since January 1, 2005. It offers in-patient and out-patient health care delivery services, electrocardiography, ultrasound, X-Ray services, sound and accurate investigation in laboratory, vaccination services, and the management of health campaigns. 
The clinic has continued to demonstrate resilience during the current Ebola epidemic. To keep its medical team safe from the Ebola virus, SOS Children’s Villages Liberia purchased four boxes (100 sets) of Personal Protective Equipment (PPE) on August 18, 2014— a purchase that was made possible by donations from SOS Netherlands, SOS Luxembourg and the Hermann Gmeiner Fonds Deutschland in Germany.  
For more information about our programs in Liberia, please click here