Friday, November 28, 2014

No Rosy Goggles Here

From the UK Telegraph:
 A few months ago I read a blog of an MSF volunteer who found himself shouting over the beautiful jungled canopy of Sierra Leone “Where is everybody”?
Today, four months after the World Health Organization declared an international emergency, I did the same thing.

I had gritted teeth and clenched fists and it came out as more of a squeak than a war cry but still, my fury and incomprehension echoed his.

I always knew I would find it frustrating being unable to provide care as sophisticated as I would like for patients suffering, but this isn’t only about the unavailability of intensive care units and swishy machines that beep.
This isn’t only about watching young people die in a terrible way and being able to offer nothing but time-honored words of comfort in badly accented Krio.     This is about people dying in triage tents with no access to any kind of medical therapy as there are no beds available. 
This is about having to put desperately sick people in ambulances for five hours as that is how long it takes to get to the nearest treatment center with space.
This is about laboratory turn-around times that mean that people negative for the disease sit in beds next to patients with profuse vomiting, diarrhea and bleeding for up to eight days, waiting for their test results.
This is about how the world knew that a nightmarish plague had hit west Africa and the world waited over six months and then sang a song about it.
Of course, I know that many agencies are contributing and working as fast as they can, and that there are some on the ground who have been advocating and campaigning for action for months.
I only arrived a fortnight ago so I can’t imagine how much more furious and frustrated they must be. Perhaps during my time here progress will be made and there will be improvement.
There are many dreadful things about the Ebola epidemic - the suffering, the squalor, and the undercurrent of fear that you could be next. For me at this point, by far the most terrifying is that nothing will change and the status quo of international turpitude will continue.

The pitifully few "treatment" facilities in Sierra Leone are overwhelmed.
They provide exactly no "treatment".
The labs are slow, overwhelmed, and help to ensure those uninfected on arrival are infected in short order, thus "treatment" = infection.

Given all of that, and the fact that health care workers certainly talk to people too, is it really that surprising that the epidemic continues unabated, while the infected or merely suspected infected stay away in droves from such medieval levels of "medical care"?
This is the kind of medical malpractice that put Florence Nightingale on the map in the Crimea, and the same for Clara Barton in the Civil War.

Of course the "official" numbers most places are dropping.
People in West Arica are illiterate, perhaps even backwards and stupid.
But they aren't all barking mad.

Faced with those prospects, anyone with a lick of common sense, who heard the ominous tones of "We're from the government, and we're here to help" would

Amazing how that lesson crops in in history pretty much universally.


Brian said...

I think you meant to say goggles in your headline rather than googles. Just an FYI, pls delete.

Anonymous said...

Checking on your updates regularly. Your blog is the only consistent reminder that I have that this issue is ongoing. Please, please, please continue monitoring and posting as the rest of the news cycles to more exciting and new points of interest. Thank you for all of this work.

Aesop said...

Thx Brian. Too much holiday cheer yesterday, not enough orange juice today.

Anonymous said...

Nice to see our Ebola Czar hasn't figured out how to get the UK news media under control yet.

Bezzle said...

Considering how useless our premier search-engine has become in trying to find news of this contagion, "rosy googles" is quite apt.