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Ebola virus outbreak: continuity of care at risk

Solthis Press Release - Paris, 2014 September 12th

12 September 2014 |  Press Release

GUINEASIERRA LEONEHIV / AIDSEBOLA

While the Ebola virus outbreak spreads in West Africa, where Solthis has operated for more than 10 years, we draw the attention of the international community to the catastrophic consequences of this crisis on health systems. Access to care and continuity of treatment for other pathologies are in serious threat.

This crisis disrupts health services and severely impacts the conditions of access to care for all populations. Our field staff can attest to the reality of the impact in many hospitals: Patient's fears of   visiting health centers to receive consultations or medications have resulted in the interruption of treatments, evidenced by increasing number of defaulters. Dr. Vanessa Wolfman, Solthis Pediatric care Manager testifies: “health care staff is placed under significant risk. I have seen pregnant women giving birth without skilled personnel and health care workers who have no gloves to ensure safe care and delivery.” Since August 18th the only pediatric referral hospital in Sierra Leone has been closed after a young child admitted to the emergency department for 2 days tested positive for Ebola. Our pediatrician draws attention to the impact of this alarming event: “As long as the hospital remains closed, thousands of children with treatable diseases, such as malaria and pneumonia, will die at home, without receiving essential treatment they require. The implications will also be severe for services such as outpatient pediatric HIV/AIDS and tuberculosis treatment, as lack of continuous care sacrifices the long-term health of these children.”

 

Health care workers are on the front line of this crisis; since March 2014, more than 120 health workers died, according to WHO, in the four countries most affected, Guinea, Sierra Leone, Liberia and Nigeria. We continue to receive daily reports of new infections among local health care colleagues.

Faced with this crisis, we are adapting our support for health care teams and national health authorities from Guinea and Sierra Leone to assure the follow-up of patients and maintain the continuity of care. To this end “we made our vehicles available to the Ministry of Health and Nethips (network of associations of people living with HIV) engaged in actions of outreach and contact with HIV-infected patients who have discontinued their care in HIV centers because of the Ebola context. We are now also working with UNICEF and local support groups to reduce the numbers of patients defaulting treatment, by actively tracing those women and children who have not come to receive their medications and encouraging them to return to appropriate care. We are providing training, facilitating coordination meetings, providing top-up cards etc. to the health care staff and social workers to enable them to conduct phone tracing and house-to-house visits to contact HIV-treatment defaulters” testifies Laurent Michiels, Solthis head of Mission in Sierra Leone.

We also seek to address, to the extent of our capability, the request for support from colleagues and partners in the field. We have started providing protective equipment to HIV units of health facilities that we support, and we are in the process of developing specific trainings in hospital hygiene and Ebola virus modes of transmission.

 

In addition, the suspension of commercial flights to Freetown, the closure of land borders and the lack of guarantee of evacuation for all expatriates in the event of infection, have had serious consequences: a significant number of departures of international staff, disruptions in supplies, including antiretroviral treatments, and escalating costs for NGOs to ship medical and protective equipment.

We appeal to the international community to provide answers equal in measure to the enormity of challenges faced by these countries and populations. Answers that make it possible to establish and maintain the logistic and medical elements essential to controlling the Ebola epidemic and also to maintaining access to care and continuity of treatments for all.

We appeal to the French Government and the African Union to end the suspension of flights to Freetown and Monrovia, and to reopen borders.

We call for the establishment of the necessary resources to facilitate the departure of all international health professionals to the affected countries, especially the guarantee of evacuation in case of infection with Ebola, an essential condition to allow for their mobilization into the field.

 

 

About Solthis

Solthis (Therapeutic Solidarity and Initiatives against HIV/AIDS) is a medical INGO which aims to strengthen health systems in countries where it operates in order to facilitate high quality, accessible and sustainable treatment for people living with HIV / AIDS. Based on the principle of non-substitution and the sharing of scientific expertise, Solthis' programs provide capacity building for local actors of the healthcare systems (health care teams, laboratories, pharmacy, health information systems, health policy) at all stages: screening, treatment and medical care for adults and children, prevention of transmission from mother to child. Founded in 2003, Solthis is now present in Mali, Niger, Guinea and Sierra Leone.

For more information about our programs conducted in the field, our actions in the Ebola crisis context or to be put in touch with our team members for testimonials:

www.solthis.org

Press contact : Rachel Demol-Domench

rachel.demol-domenach@solthis.org / + 33 (0)1 53 61 53 65

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