(Kampala, Uganda) – The AIDS Healthcare Foundation (AHF) reacted harshly today to news of the World Health Organisation’s refusal to evacuate a Sierra Leonean Doctor, Dr Olivet Buck, almost certainly contributing to her death on Saturday 14 September.
The WHO declined the Sierra Leonean Government request for funds and assistance to evacuate Dr Buck to a hospital in Hamburg, Germany, opting instead to rely on the overburdened state medical infrastructure within Sierra Leone the to care for Dr Buck.
AHF strongly criticises the WHO failure to act promptly, responsibly and compassionately to the situation, especially given the fact that doctors and nurses are the most critical component of the fight against Ebola. The loss of just one health worker results in an exponential loss of many more lives in the region due to lack of treatment and care, driving the epidemic.
“We are outraged that the World Health Organization would act the way it did, said Michael Weinstein, President of the AIDS Healthcare Foundation. “The bottom line is that Sierra Leone’s most important resource is being allowed to die. In the world view, Western journalists in the Middle East are obviously much more important.”
An official Sierra Leonean emergency bulletin on Ebola issued on 08 September reported that there were fewer than 500 sets of gowns, face shields, boots and heavy duty gloves in stock for the entire country. Ebola is spread through direct contact with bodily fluids of infected persons, thereby making health workers and care givers most vulnerable to contracting the disease. Health workers are a critical resource and should be protected for now and for the future!
To date AHF has provided in excess of US$ 450,000 in financial and technical support for the Ebola Response in West Africa.
“What ‘best care’ could WHO have provided to Dr Buck other than evacuating her to a more advanced health facility abroad that was ready to receive her?” asked Dr Penninah Iutung Amor, the Africa Bureau Chief of the AIDS Healthcare Foundation. “It is a violation of human rights and is totally unacceptable for WHO to fail to protect the most important resource in the Ebola fight in West Africa!”
The WHO decision to refuse to evacuate Dr Buck directly contradicts their Director General Margaret Chan’s pronouncements on the need to facilitate the involvement of appropriately trained medical professionals to combat Ebola on the ground. “We are gravely concerned that amidst the health worker crisis in West Africa, too little is being done to protect and save the few available and willing health workers”, said Terri Ford, Chief of Advocacy for AIDS Healthcare Foundation.
AHF has issued a call to action proposing the establishment of well-equipped Ebola isolation and treatment units in each of the affected countries to take care of health workers. Noting the CDC’s capacity and technical expertise, AHF has proposed that they should take the lead in coordinating the response to the Ebola Virus Disease epidemic. It has further called on the United States and the European Union to provide immediate evacuation for all medical personnel who contract Ebola Virus Disease
ABOUT THE AIDS HEALTHCARE FOUNDATION (AHF)
AIDS Healthcare Foundation (AHF) is the largest non-profit HIV/AIDS healthcare provider in the USA. AHF currently provides medical care and/or services to more than 348,000 individuals in 36 countries worldwide in the US, Africa, Latin America/Caribbean, Eastern Europe, and Asia. www.aidshealth.org
FOR COMMENT CONTACT:
Dr. Penninah Iutung Amor, AHF Africa Bureau: [email protected], +256 772 754 333
Miata Jambawai, AHF Sierra Leone: [email protected] +232 79 250 100
Larissa Klazinga, AHF Southern Africa: [email protected], +277 11 746717
Alice Kayongo, AHF Uganda Cares: [email protected], +256 772 440 108
Ged Kenslea, AHF Communications Director, [email protected] +1.323.791.5526