Maternal Health Task Force


A Maternity Ward During the Ebola Outbreak: My Experience As an Ebola Fighter

By: Rudy Lukamba, Medical Field Coordinator, Women for Africa Foundation

Rudy Lukamba

This week Dr. Lukamba is taking part in Safe Mothers and Newborns in CaixaForum Barcelona, a workshop supported by the MHTF, ISGlobal and Aga Khan University.

There are so many ways to become famous; unfortunately West Africa will mark humanbeing history by being the area on Earth which experienced the worst Ebola outbreak. Ebola disease was known since 1976, but in this part of the world, no one was having an idea about it in November 2013 when the first cases started in Guinea Conakry. The weakness of the health system, the poor communication, the lack of coordination and resources contributed to the quick and large spread of the disease all over the subregion. Ebola created fear and panic in the societies of all countries affected; a lot of health facilities closed because health workers- who paid a huge tribute during this outbreak became afraid to treat any patients with Ebola-like symptoms. So the virus was killing one person directly and several others indirectly—mainly women—because all complications during pregnancy present similarly to Ebola (e.g. infection, eclampsia, bleeding, etc).

Our intervention as Ebola fighters was less to treat patients affected by the virus than to avoid that those who were not Ebola infected died due to lack of proper care. The challenge was to provide maternal health care in the context of the Ebola outbreak. What follows is an account of our experience at the Maternity of Saint Joseph Catholic hospital in Monrovia, Liberia from November 2014 to June 2015. Our main method of work was to adjust the Infection Prevention Control (IPC) protocols to our reality of referral maternity which has to deal with all obstetrical emergencies. The main rule of IPC is the NO TOUCH POLICY. So our main concern was to find the way to attend to a pregnant woman without touching her. We developed innovative protocol to make it possible.

All the patients, including all maternity patients, were going through hand washing with chlorine solution 0,05% and control of body temperature at the gate of the hospital. Then everybody passed by the triage to separate suspected cases (patient with fever and 2 to 3 others Ebola symptoms such as bleeding, body pain, vomiting, convulsion) from clean cases (patients having only pregnancy-related problems). Suspected cases were sent to the holding center (a building separated from the main hospital building) which was considered a red zone: an area where the wear of advanced personal protective equipment was mandatory. Quick assessment to evaluate the condition of the patient and blood specimen was taken for major endemic diseases (e.g. malaria, typhoid) and for Ebola Virus Disease (EVD). An initial treatment was started waiting for the EVD result. When the EVD test was negative the patient was then cleared and sent to the maternity for further management. A delivery room was set in the holding building to attend to pregnant in advanced labor that couldn’t wait for the result to come.IMG_20150330_102845_small

Patients without any symptom were sent to antenatal care, which was a new screening, comparing information from the patient’s history with those from the triage. Women were then scanned with an ultrasound which allowed a good clinical assessment without touching the patient.  Patients in labor were sent to the maternity, which was divided in three areas: red zone (labor and delivery room, because health professional were dealing with a lot of body fluid), yellow zone (postpartum, because the secretion was small) and green zone (nursing station). Over a 6 month period we screened 4,000 pregnant women, realized 700 deliveries, and performed 250 C-sections. And most important, avoiding the death of so many women who were wrongly suspected of Ebola. However the fight against Ebola is still going on.

This post has been lightly edited from its original posting on the ISGlobal Blog.

Categories: Cross-post Maternal Health


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