FREETOWN (Reuters) - Members of Sierra Leone’s Junior Doctors Association, which forms the bulk of the local doctors fighting Ebola in the country, have gone on a partial strike over the lack of care for local medics who are infected while working.
The move, which comes after the tenth local doctor died from the virus last week, is the latest in a series of strikes to hamper the battle against Ebola in Sierra Leone. The country has recorded more Ebola cases than any other.
Nine months into the worst Ebola outbreak on record, Ebola is still spreading in Sierra Leone and parts of Guinea. Experts say more foreign aid workers are needed to halt a disease that has already killed over 6,300 people across the region.
Dr Jeredine George, president of the doctors’ association, said local doctors were dying at an “alarming rate” and staff were demanding a specialized unit with a dialysis machine if they are not to be evacuated when they are infected.
“We have raised so many concerns and we have still not been listened to,” she told Reuters. “We have decided to withhold the majority of our services... until the establishment of this facility.”
George said that there were over 90 members of the association and all of them were on strike.
Discrepancies in treatment between locals and foreign medical staff, who are routinely evacuated to Western hospitals when they catch Ebola, has become a source of tension.
Asked if the strike action would affect Ebola facilities, George said: “Yes, that is right. We will not be fully involved in the Ebola fight because we do not think the optimum will be done for us in the event we get infected.”
At least 106 medical personnel have died from Ebola in Sierra Leone and some 250 more have died elsewhere in the region, mainly in Guinea and Liberia, the other two worst-affected countries.
Madinatu Rahman, Sierra Leone’s deputy health minister, said she understood the doctors’ concerns but that they were being addressed and the facilities they sought would be operational by Dec. 20, at the latest.
“This is a crucial time, this is a crisis period. The whole world is here to help us so if we Sierra Leoneans don’t put our shoulders to the wheel what will they think about us?” she said.
Writing by David Lewis; editing by Ralph Buolton