The Life Care Health Clinic is just one clinic in the Liberian countryside, but its story is shared by so many across this country. It’s a story of frustration, incapacity and loss of knowing what could possibly be done next.
The clinic is located in the interestingly named Soul Clinic community of Paynesville, a suburb of Monrovia, Liberia. Our team – myself, Gary, Sue, Dan – along with James, our guide, came to learn more about how health providers are faring in this time of Ebola, and to provide some supplies we had brought with us. We had an opportunity to sit and talk with the small clinic staff and listened mostly to Mr. Tia, the clinic administrator, as he talked about his clinic, the community and what they’ve had to deal with.
This tiny clinic has a two-bed male ward, two-bed female ward, a delivery room, a pharmacy, and it serves a community of about 4,000 people. When Ebola came into their community they were unprepared for the onslaught of patients, and woefully under-supplied and under-staffed.
They had no way to protect themselves from the Ebola virus, nor did they have a way to determine who actually has Ebola or who has something else like a bad case of malaria or cholera. At first they tried to just turn away those that had symptoms, but it quickly became clear that it was hard to tell who was infected with Ebola and who wasn’t. So the difficult decision was made that they simply must close the clinic.
Mr. Tia told us that out of 50 deaths in the past few months, maybe 20 to 30 are from Ebola and that perhaps the rest could have been prevented with regular medical care, but there is no way for people to get treated now. Beyond Ebola, his biggest concern is people dying of malaria, which is so much more common than Ebola.
We listened, sitting on the porch of the clinic as the African rains fell, and thanked Mr. Tia and his staff for sharing their stories and concerns. Before we departed, we left one of our Ready Relief Boxes full of medical supplies, thermometers, disposable stethoscopes and blood pressure cuffs.
We wanted to do more. As we drove away we hoped that soon we will.