By Sailu Bah
As the Ebola Virus Disease is raging in some neighbouring countries in the sub-region and claiming more than 3000 lives, people in the Gambia are still concern about efforts being made by the health authorities to keep the disease which has not yet entered the country at bay. This is what prompted the reporter to have this exclusive interview with Mr. Sanna M. Sambou, the National Ebola Coordinator at the Ministry of Health at his office in Kotu on Wednesday, 1 October, 2014.
Question: How Prepared is the Gambia for Ebola?
Sambou: The Ministry of Health is very much prepared for the Ebola Virus Disease by training health personnel and putting in place screening measures at border posts. We, as a ministry, have also set up major quarantine centers that will cover the entire region in the Gambia. There are 3 major quarantine centers where Ebola suspects can be taken for check up, which are fully equipped and with trained health personnel. In Banjul, the Edward Francis Small Teaching Hospital (EFSTH) Sanatorium (formerly used as an isolation centre for tuberculosis patients) is a major quarantine center that can serve the Greater Banjul Area and its surroundings. There is another major quarantine center which is at Soma in the Lower River Region (L.RR) that can serve those within the region and another one is in Basse. We also have trained health personnel in all the health facilities who are provided with tents where suspects can be observed until they will be referred to major quarantine centers. The ministry of health has also been engaged in a massive sensitization campaign on the media and also pasting demonstration posters on Ebola at health facilities and public places. We are still continuing with the capacity building of the health personnel and are still on the sensitization campaign to keep the people informed on how to prevent themselves from the disease before it enters the country.
Question: What contingency plans do you put in place if the epidemic is to spread in the country and will the Gambian health services be able to cope with an outbreak of such a scale as in Liberia?
Sambou: Yes, we can be able to cope as we have put in place contingencies to ensure our preparedness, by putting in place these things I mentioned earlier and that is sensitization to create awareness of the general public, capacity building of health personnel, and screening the borders as well as establishing quarantine centres. The case in Liberia is getting worse because they have not prepared for the disease. But in The Gambia here, we are fully prepared and the awareness is very high. So this will help even if there is an outbreak. And also we have a hotline number which is 1025 for free in case of any suspect. Since we have 5 suspected cases around April 2014 who are all tested and proved negative, we have never received any other suspect yet. 3 of the suspects were Gambians and 2 of them were from the sub region in West Africa. Every week, we meet with stakeholders to see how best we can strategise to make sure that the country is safe. This committee also looks into to the way forward.
Question: Final Words
Sambou: Ebola should be a concern to everyone in the Gambia, and I urged each and every one to work with the ministry of health in fighting against the disease. In case of any suspect or for further enquiries, there is a hotline at 1025 which you can call for information.