International response to the West African Ebola outbreak has been “chaotic and entirely inadequate,” according to a statement issued Wednesday by the humanitarian group Doctors Without Borders, which has been treating patients in affected countries for months.
Doctors Without Borders’ newest Ebola treatment facility — a 120-bed facility in Monrovia, the capital of Liberia — is already overwhelmed. The group plans to construct three additional tents with space for 40 more beds.
Doctors Without Borders’ guidelines were written for Ebola treatment centers with just 20 beds. “We have to constantly adapt” to address a crisis of this scale, Lindis Hurum, the group’s emergency coordinator in Monrovia, said in a statement. “The numbers of patients we are seeing is unlike anything we’ve seen in previous outbreaks,” Hurum said.
The new treatment center can slow the spread of the outbreak by isolating patients, preventing them from infecting friends and family. But overworked health workers have had to reduce the level of care they provide, according to Doctors Without Borders. They can no longer administer intravenous treatments, for example, which could limit doctors’ ability to help dehydrated patients.
“It is simply unacceptable that, five months after the declaration of this Ebola outbreak, serious discussions are only starting now about international leadership and coordination,” said Brice de le Vingne, director of operations at Doctors Without Borders. Referring to other countries that have the potential to help, he says, “They can do more, so why don’t they?”
In Monrovia, “much of the city’s medical system has shut down over fears of the virus among staff members and patients, leaving many people with no health care at all, generating an emergency within the emergency,” the group’s statement says. Women have trouble finding places to deliver babies, for example.
According to the World Health Organization, Ebola has infected more than 2,600 people and killed more than 1,400 in the four affected countries – Guinea, Sierra Leone, Liberia and Nigeria.