Via The New York Times: New, Larger Ebola Center Opens in Liberia. Excerpt:
Doctors Without Borders began accepting patients on Sunday at what is intended to be the largest-ever Ebola treatment center, near Monrovia, Liberia’s capital. The center is near two previous units, which have been filled beyond their intended capacity as the number of suspected Ebola patients in the capital grew greatly in recent days.
The new unit, on the grounds of the Eternal Love Winning Africa mission hospital in Paynesville City, is designed to hold 120 patients and can be expanded to accommodate more than 300. There is an urgent need for it. On Sunday, patients who might be coming down with Ebola waited outdoors on the hospital grounds as a storm battered the city with rain. Nine patients were admitted to the new unit.
“There are still a number in the intake care,” said Tim Shenk, a spokesman for Doctors Without Borders in Monrovia, which is running the center. “It’s not open for a larger number of patients at this point. We’re going to scale it up fairly gradually so the staff can really master everything.”
President Ellen Johnson Sirleaf of Liberia, in an interview last week, said that she hoped the new unit would relieve the problem of insufficient space.
The rush of people reporting for testing and isolation in the capital has come in part, doctors say, from increased public awareness. Mrs. Johnson Sirleaf has been ubiquitous in the media, informing the public about Ebola and how to protect themselves.
The opening of the new center came a day after a holding center in the West Point neighborhood of the capital was overrun by angry protesters who broke through its gates and carried away patients and supplies, including contaminated mattresses. The Health Ministry said it was looking for the missing patients.
Samuel Tarplah, 48, a nurse running the center, said Saturday evening that the protesters wanted to shut it down. “They told us that we don’t want an Ebola holding center in our community,” he said, adding that the intruders even stole buckets of chlorine that had just been delivered. “They took everything.”
Liberian health officials opened the West Point center in a former school last week to provide a place for people exposed to Ebola or showing symptoms to be isolated and tested, to avoid passing it to their family members.
“In our society, it’s very difficult, with a family member in the home, that they will not attempt to help,” Mrs. Johnson Sirleaf said. “Our culture is to shake hands, to hug, to help. That’s our culture.”
The West Point center remained closed on Sunday, as Liberia’s top health officials met to discuss how to respond to the latest setback in the unfolding crisis.
Making matters worse, gloves, gowns and other protective gear were not yet reaching hospitals in sufficient amounts.
“Without these gloves and all, we are all very scared to see patients at all,” said Dr. Jimi Benson, founder and director of Benson Hospital in Paynesville, just outside Monrovia.
Dr. Benson said that patients were reporting to the hospital with symptoms suggesting Ebola, but could be other illnesses, and that his staff needed to be able to examine them. “If we are not well dressed, that means we are taking a chance. There’s no sign for us to know that this patient coming in is an Ebola patient.”