(Reuters) - A Sierra Leonean doctor sick with Ebola is expected to depart the West African country on Friday night to fly to the United States for treatment and be reunited with his American wife, according to the doctor’s church and employer.
Dr. Martin Salia, 44, contracted the virus last week while working as the chief medical officer and surgeon at the United Methodist Church’s Kissy Hospital in Freetown in Sierra Leone, one of the three West African countries hardest hit by the worst Ebola outbreak on record.
He is expected to be taken to the Nebraska Medical Center in Omaha, which has successfully treated two other people who contracted the virus in West Africa since September and is one of four American hospitals approved by the federal government to treat Ebola.
On Thursday, the hospital and the U.S. Department of State said a patient who had contracted Ebola in Sierra Leone was being evaluated for possible treatment but both declined to name the patient, citing privacy laws.
The hospital also said that the patient would only be taken there if the crew on Phoenix Air, the chartered flight company that has carried out previous evacuations organized by the State Department, deems his health stable enough to make the journey. A hospital spokesman declined to comment further on Friday.
In its statement, the United Methodist Church cited an interview that Salia, a permanent U.S. resident, gave earlier this year to the church’s news service.
“I knew it wasn’t going to be rosy, but why did I decide to choose this job?” Salia was quoted as saying. “I firmly believe God wanted me to do it.”
There was no answer on Friday at the home of Salia’s wife, Isatu Salia, in Hyattsville, Maryland. The State Department said it was assisting Salia’s family.
Although the State Department organizes evacuations for Ebola patients in West Africa, the patient or their organization must ultimately cover the cost of the transport and treatment.
After Salia fell sick last week and was taken to Freetown’s Connaught Hospital, he was discharged last Friday when an Ebola test came back negative. He was tested again and diagnosed with Ebola on Tuesday, the hospital said.
Salia would be the 10th known case of Ebola in the United States.
Eight of those other patients were successfully treated, and one of those patients, a Liberian man named Thomas Eric Duncan, died.
Additional reporting by John Clarke in Hyattsville, Maryland and David Bailey in Minneapolis; Editing by Sandra Maler