Via Christianity Today: Medical Missionaries' Ebola Pullback: No More Kent Brantlys? Excerpt:
After contracting the world’s most deadly virus while serving as medical missionaries in Liberia, both Kent Brantly of Samaritan’s Purse and Nancy Writebol of SIM became household names—as did Ebola itself.
They survived. As did Rick Sacra, an SIM missionary doctor from Massachusetts also serving in Liberia. But this week, Martin Salia, a Maryland surgeon serving in a United Methodist hospital in his native Sierra Leone, did not.
He joined the World Health Organization’s tally of 329 health care workers (out of 584 infected) who have died from Ebola so far. The disease has now killed more than 5,400 people out of 15,000-plus reported cases—mostly in Liberia, Sierra Leone, and Guinea.
Brantly, Sacra, and Salia were all affiliated with the Christian Medical and Dental Association (CMDA), which reports a surge in interest in medical missions. But will we see another Brantly? Christian ministries are no longer letting American physicians get so close to Ebola patients.
Brantly was one of about 900 doctors that Samaritan’s Purse sends to Africa each year to work in missionary hospitals. In Liberia, the Christian relief organization had its expatriate staff switch their focus to Ebola in June, but soon pulled about 60 people back to the US after Brantly and Writebol contracted the virus in July.
Samaritan’s Purse returned American workers to Liberia in September. But their focus is now not on Ebola patients themselves, but on managing the health of nearly 400 Liberian staff running 15 community care centers on the front lines.
“After Dr. Brantly got Ebola, we just thought there’s got to be a better way of doing this,” said Franklin Graham, Samaritan’s Purse president and CEO, explaining the “different philosophy.” “We believe if you're going to fight Ebola, you're going to have to train Liberians to save Liberians.
“You can bring the expats in,” he said. “But when Ebola is gone or diminishes, then the people leave, and nobody's there to fight it.”
Underscoring Graham’s point: Liberia lost 150 of its 200 doctors after “95 percent of the expatriate doctors” left the country following the Ebola outbreak, SIM urologist Frank Glover testified to Congress in August.
Samaritan’s Purse is not alone. George Salloum, vice president of SIM, doesn’t know of any Christian group which has expat physicians work directly with Ebola patients. (Earlier, Mercy Ships canceled planned visits to the region.)
“Our philosophy is not to Americanize,” he said of SIM, which has approximately 20 percent of its global force involved in health care. In the wake of Ebola, SIM has reduced the numbers of expatriate health care workers in Liberia from six to one or two on a rotating basis.
Training the locals is eminent good sense. The Ugandans and DR Congolese have been able to send experts to help in West Africa; in future Ebola outbreaks, West Africans may be able to pass the favour on.