Sun | Apr 30, 2017

Jamaican docs dodge Ebola line of fire

Published:Sunday | November 9, 2014 | 11:00 AM

Meleisa Witter, GUEST COLUMNIST

Instead of shying away from this great opportunity as the medical fraternity seems to be doing, Jamaican nurses and doctors should welcome the prospect of interfacing with Ebola in its backyard in Liberia in preparation for the eventuality that it should reach Jamaica. This recommendation is being made in keeping with Jamaican medic Dr Coril Curtis-Warmington's plea for other Jamaican doctors to join her in Liberia, as reported by The Gleaner on Tuesday, November 4, 2014.

These medical practitioners would be making this trip fully armed and forewarned as to what they would encounter and so should be able to assist their patients without contracting the illness. This would, in turn, prepare them to deal with the deadly disease should it reach our shores.

It could easily be said that I can speak this way because I am not in that field. Hence, I would not be in the line of fire. But common sense dictates that if a roster is created for even three dozen of our medical personnel to visit the African nation and get directly involved with treating Ebola patients, they would be getting invaluable hands-on experience, getting a deep appreciation of the reality of the sickness and the technical ability to identify sufferers at the various stages much more easily than to wait for it to come here then learn through trial and error.

Lack of preparation

Numerous reports to date have pointed to a lack of preparation or readiness to deal with Ebola in Jamaica. Must we have a repeat of the chikungunya fiasco? Remember that Ebola is contagious, highly infectious and way more deadly than chik-V. And it is so sad that precious lives have been lost to chik-V because of a lack of preparedness. We must learn from our mistakes.

I am gratified by the work The Gleaner has been doing in raising awareness about the illness daily through its Ebola Facts on the front page, as well as myriad other articles and news reports. But the reality is that if or when the time comes for dealing with the reality of Ebola in Jamaica, it would be infinitely more reassuring if there were some persons in the medical fraternity who would be able to come to the fore to say, 'We have been in the heart of Ebola and we have offered treatment resulting in persons being successfully treated. We are ready for this," rather than a repeat of the Mandeville Hospital scenario a few weeks ago, or doctors nervously consulting their PDR looking for the best medicines to prescribe.

And while it has been reported that several medical facilities are consolidating their infrastructure such as installation of appropriate flooring in their containment areas, that should only be part of the all-important action plan to get ready for Ebola.

Since Ebola has reached America, the administration there has suddenly developed a keen interest in its eradication or control and has pledged billions of dollars (6.8, to be exact) to that end. Other countries such as the United Kingdom and Australia have also promised to lend financial support to the cause; hence, I am less concerned about the otherwise far reach it would have. Nevertheless, every day that goes by leads us closer to the day when indeed a report of Ebola in Jamaica will not just be a rumour. Our medical community's response has been less than enthusiastic to date. I'd encourage them to remember their oath and start acting in a manner that will only prove beneficial to them in the long run, instead of allowing themselves to be overcome by fear.

Meleisa Witter is a publisher and creative and editorial director of Caribbean Wellness & Lifestyle magazine. Email feedback to columns@gleanerjm.com and melcwitter@gmail.com.