Redemption Hospital is the only free general hospital in Liberia’s capital city. During the Ebola outbreak of 2014, it became the epicenter of the contagious virus. At its peak, the outbreak in West Africa killed 5,000 people in Liberia alone.
The hospital in Monrovia was unable to manage the flood of ill patients. It lacked adequate supplies and suffered a staff shortage after workers refused to come to work for fear of contracting the virus. In total, 12 workers at Redemption Hospital died from Ebola.
As a result, instead of quelling the outbreak, the hospital began to exacerbate it until Redemption was forced to close its doors.
Up until the Ebola disaster, the hospital was used to treating dire cases with very little resources. Liberia had just 51 doctors to treat the entire population of 4 million people. As a free hospital, the staff could not bring themselves to turn anyone away.
When Ebola hit, this did not change. Redemption had only 205 beds but they housed 400 patients, squeezing two—sometimes three—patients into a single bed. This was a lethal decision and one of the reasons that the Ebola outbreak that struck West Africa became the world’s biggest.
Ebola is known as the “caregiver’s disease” because it spreads when people take care of ill family members. Plus, often funerals in that part of the world require touching corpses still carrying the deadly virus. Because many people in West Africa do not know important aspects about the spread of contagion, many blunders were made.
With help from the USAID and the International Rescue Committee, a non-governmental organization, Redemption Hospital reopened its doors in January 2015. It has been equipped with proper supplies and staff members who are trained to adequately use them.
Each patient admitted into the hospital must undergo screening for any chance they could be sick with Ebola or other infectious illnesses. Anyone with suspicious symptoms are moved immediately to the hospital’s new isolation unit.
Staff have also been provided with proper training on how to prevent and control infectious diseases. The pediatric and emergency ward have each been renovated and new washing machines have been installed for effective disinfection. An industrial incinerator to rid of waste was added to the hospital as well.
Health care workers are hoping that Liberia is able to bounce back with similar improvements that the hospital has, with more people, more training and more preparation for a health crisis.
“This does provide an opportunity to take a big step forward,” explains Justin Pendarvis who specializes in public health with USAID.
Elizabeth Hamann was involved in the IRC’s initiate to reopen Redemption. “The same way that HIV changed the way you practice medicine in the U.S., Ebola should change the way we practice medicine here,” she says.
Liberia now has 4,000 health care workers equipped with special training and are able to work in Ebola treatment centers. Redemption Hospital now treats 1,000 people per week.
– Lillian Sickler