Irish doctor talks about treating Ebola crisis in Sierra Leone

Irish doctor treating Ebola patients in Sierra Leone says she has to fight “natural instincts” while working in treatment center.

As the death toll from Ebola climbs towards a thousand and the outbreak of the deadly virus is declared an international emergency by the World Health Organization (WHO), a Dublin doctor has revealed what it is like working at the Medicins Sans Frontieres treatment center at the center of the outbreak in Kailahun, Sierra Leone.

Dr Gabriel Fitzpatrick, who works in public health in Ireland, left his wife and child for Sierra Leone last Friday without a return ticket home. He told the Irish Independent of the challenges of working at the treatment centers.

"There are a few rules in the Ebola treatment centre that are sometimes difficult to remember and go against our natural instincts," said Dr Fitzpatrick, who is from Killester.

"Firstly, shaking hands with anybody is forbidden and you must keep a certain distance away at all times."

Dr Fitzpatrick said that the work also takes an emotional toll.

"Yesterday in the suspected cases ward I saw a small child getting his nappy changed by one of the nurses who was wearing a full-body protective plastic suit," he said.

"The child was clinging to the nurse and searching and hoping for comfort in a place which does not allow direct skin to skin contact.

"As a father myself, this image stuck in my mind.

"On the same evening a mother and her two children were admitted to the hospital with confirmed Ebola.

"It really was a heartbreaking sight."

The Irish Independent reports 1,711 cases of Ebola confirmed so far, with eight of the cases in Nigeria. The first rumored case of the virus was reported in Guinea last February, but the case was not confirmed until March.

COMMENTS