NHS doctor describes desperate situation from inside Ebola treatment centre

Categories: In The Media.

The infectious disease specialist, normally based in Huddersfield, is sending regular audio diaries to BBC Radio 4 from her 72-bedded treatment centre in Sierra Leone.

Answering a desperate call for help from the countries currently in the midst of the Ebola outbreak, Dr Geraldine O’Hara articulately describes the battle between the fear she faces and the desire to help treat those in need, “It’s something I wanted to do and something I felt I needed to do, both professionally and personally,” she says.

Her short, yet incredibly powerful reflections played out on the radio station’s Today programme, paint a sombre picture.

In the first of the short series broadcast on Saturday 25 October, we hear how Dr O’Hara prepared her family for her departure, ensuring they are well taken care of while she is away and reassuring her anxious mother that she would be safe.

Distressing situations

We then hear the first of many distressing situations from inside the treatment centre, as she describes the shout from colleagues that a pregnant patient needs assistance.

As Dr O’Hara meticulously checks her layers of protective clothing and prepares to examine the woman, she learns that the baby has already been delivered, and sadly it has died. She notes that this is becoming a common sight. Pregnant women are often able to fight the virus, but their babies in utero are not.

In the second audio diary broadcast today (Monday 27 October), she tells us about the daily routine in her role as a volunteer for Médecins Sans Frontières.

Due to essential infection control measures, the logistics of transferring patient notes from inside the clinic was an obvious problem. Dr O’Hara tells us that this issue has been resolved simply by shouting instructions over the wall, which are then recorded by colleagues outside. 

The stark realities of this dreadful disease are clearly communicated as she reports that in one day at the clinic four ambulances arrive carrying people suspected of having Ebola and 20 new patients are admitted to the clinic. 

Sadly as Dr O’Hara comes onto duty the following day, she discovers that seven patients have died overnight.

You can listen to the first report online from 1 hour 46 minutes into the programme and second report online from 1 hour 17 minutes. There will be further audio diaries broadcast on BBC Radio 4 throughout the week.

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