Liberian Ministry of Health trains staff before full resumption of medical services

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When the Ebola virus entered Liberia last March in Lofa County before rapidly spreading to other parts of the country in August, every sector of the country, particularly the Health Care sector became affected.

Health workers, on the frontline of the battle against Ebola, were particularly vulnerable. Many contracted the virus by coming into contact with the body fluids of infected patients.

Because Liberia has made significant progress in the fight against the disease, the Ministry of Health is preparing for the full resumption of health delivery services.

Part of this preparation included a week long training of trainers’ workshop at the Samuel Kanyon Doe (SKD) Sports Complex in Paynesville.

More than 25 doctors and physician assistants from the Ministry and its partner organizations attended the workshop which included practical demonstrations.

The UN Mission for the Ebola Emergency Response (UNMEER) coordinated conversations between partners and the Ministry of Health to develop the training package and how the training would be delivered to all health care workers in Liberia.

The training package seeks to build the capacity of the health care workers so they can improve services while keeping themselves and their patients safe.

At the formal opening program of the training, Acting Health Minister Dr. Bernice Dahn reflected on the challenges of the past. She said, “We all remember, especially the counties that were heavily hit, that health facilities were not functional. We also had to start training health workers to provide care for the patients. We are building on those trainings. We have integrated all the trainings and we have said every health worker should go through the training to prepare for the future.”

She believes the training comes at just the right moment.

“This is the time to actually improve the quality of [health] care so [that] we don’t have the scenario that we had during the outbreak. During the outbreak, we had to develop several tools to be able to even identify the case definition, to be able to classify patients as either being [confirmed with] Ebola or not and how to manage cases within the Ebola Treatment Units.”

Dr. Dahn, who voluntarily quarantined herself for 21 days following the death of one of her assistants from Ebola last September, said that Liberia must now prepare for future outbreaks.

“Experience has shown that, in places where we have had an Ebola outbreak, it goes [away for] one or two years and it comes back. So this training is to train you to be able to train others,” Dahn added.

Dr. Catherine Cooper, who heads the Ministry’s Infection Prevention Control Taskforce, is one of the facilitators. She said that master trainers are being trained to conduct similar trainings nationwide.

“This [training] is actually a component of the restoration [of health facilities]. The training is not training only on Ebola. We want to prepare health workers to manage Ebola and we also want health workers to be prepared to handle any other infections and to protect themselves and their patients by applying the principles of infection control.”

She added that the continuance of safety measures, including wearing personal protective equipment (PPE), has helped Liberia make considerable progress in the fight against Ebola.

“The PPE is a means of protection for the health workers to keep themselves safe. At this stage in the outbreak, we still need the health workers to wear the PPE. Later on in the outbreak, there may be other recommendations for PPE. So at this point, they still need to wear the PPE,” she added.

WHO Deputy Representative in Liberia, Emmanuel Musa, believes health services must be properly, safely and quickly delivered to staff in clinics and hospitals which have just reopened. He encouraged the trainees to be attentive to the facilitators to ensure that they get all the necessary knowledge and skills needed to transfer to others effectively.