Reopening Hospitals

The ACCEL consortium working to restore critically needed basic health care in Liberia by reopening hospitals overwhelmed by Ebola outbreaks, thanks to funding from the Paul G. Allen #TackleEbola initiative.

“Everyone has heard about the deaths from Ebola, but many people don’t realize how many women who need C-sections are still dying. Children with malaria have nowhere to go. Most hospitals are still closed,” said Patricia McQuilkin, MD, clinical associate professor of pediatrics at the University of Massachusetts Medical School (UMMS), and a project leader on the $7.5 million Ebola relief grant. “Health care workers had no personal protective equipment and were too afraid to come back.”

The consortium, which is led by UMMS, is working to reopen 25 such hospitals by hiring teams of Liberian health care workers, training them to become experts in safely handling Ebola cases and then dispatching them to train colleagues. The teams of master trainers—to include a Liberian doctor, nurse, midwife, psychologist and sanitation expert—will be dispatched to spend one week at each hospital to train staff on U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention standards for Ebola safety, triage, patient care, sanitation and donning and doffing personal protective equipment. Everyone in the hospital will be trained, including janitors and cafeteria staff. One employee will be trained extensively on infection control and will monitor compliance closely.

Simultaneously, hospitals will be fully stocked with personal protective equipment and all necessary safety supplies. The training and medical supplies will allow the hospitals to reopen.

“Now that the Ebola treatment units are up and running, the rate of infection is definitely going down and the Ministry of Health is starting to think about opening the hospitals again,” said Dr. McQuilkin, who recently returned from Liberia. “It felt like an amazing time to be working on this because the timing is working out perfectly. Had we left two weeks earlier, people may still have been focused primarily on controlling the virus.”

“I’m excited that this seems to fit in with what the country wants right now,” said Michelle Niescierenko, MD, pediatric emergency physician and director of the Global Health Program at Boston Children’s Hospital, who is project leader on the grant along with McQuilkin. Dr. Niescierenko is in Liberia coordinating the relief efforts. “We’ve just hired 25 Liberian health care workers and they are starting their CDC training this week.”

Building on a years-long relationship between UMMS and Liberia, the UMass Medical School Ebola Relief efforts funded by the grant are a component of philanthropist Paul G. Allen’s increased commitment of at least $100 million to the Tackle Ebola campaign he has launched.