FREETOWN, Sierra Leone (AP) — Sierra Leone’s junior doctors were on strike for a second day Tuesday to demand better care for medical workers who catch Ebola after a spate of recent deaths.
In neighboring Liberia, the president urged her countrymen not to let down their guard against the disease, even as the infection rate stabilizes there.
The current Ebola outbreak has infected more than 17,800 people, the vast majority in Liberia, Guinea and Sierra Leone. Of those, around 6,300 have died. There are signs the outbreak is beginning to be controlled in Liberia and Guinea, but it continues to spread quickly in Sierra Leone, which now has recorded the highest number of infections.
Hundreds of health workers in all three countries have become infected, and Sierra Leone lost three doctors in two days in the past week. The deaths prompted a strike of the junior doctors’ association that started Monday. The doctors want assurances that they’ll have access to life-saving equipment, like dialysis machines, if they become infected.
Dr. Jeredine George, president of the association, said Tuesday the government has promised that beds will be set aside for health workers at a treatment unit near the capital that can offer sophisticated care. But she said talks with government officials are continuing.
While Sierra Leone battles to contain an expanding outbreak, in Liberia infection rates are stabilizing and President Ellen Johnson Sirleaf is rallying her citizens to make sure people don’t get complacent as infection rates stabilize. There are concerns, as the disease retreats, that lax hygiene practices will return and allow it to flare again.
On Monday, Sirleaf launched “Operation Ebola Must Go,” reminding Liberians that there are still Ebola hot spots around the country, many in rural areas.
“We all have to intensify our effort to travel that difficult, very difficult last mile,” Sirleaf said in remarks broadcast Tuesday on state radio from the launch.
On Tuesday, Liberia is hosting a meeting of representatives and experts from the affected countries and the U.N. mission on Ebola to discuss how the countries can work together to stop cross-border transmission.