FREETOWN, Sierra Leone (AP) — Junior doctors in Sierra Leone went on strike Monday to demand better treatment for health workers infected with Ebola, a health official said.
The association representing junior doctors asked the government to make sure life-saving equipment, like dialysis machines, is available to treat infected doctors. The government has promised that a new, fully equipped unit is opening soon near the capital. But the doctors began their strike anyway, according to Health Ministry spokesman Jonathan Abass Kamara.
Ten of the 11 Sierra Leonean doctors who have become infected have died. Ebola has killed more than 6,300 people, including hundreds of health workers. Throughout the outbreak in West Africa, health care workers have periodically gone on strike to demand better protection or higher pay.
In an effort to make sure health workers get top-notch treatment, special centers dedicated to their care have already opened in Liberia and Sierra Leone.
As infection rates in Liberia and Guinea begin to stabilize, Sierra Leone has now recorded the highest number of cases, and Sierra Leoneans have been asking why the disease is picking up pace there and some have lashed out at the British response. In particular, the charity Save the Children, which is running the first U.K.-built treatment center to open, has been criticized for a slow and disorganized rollout.
The charity defended itself Monday, saying it stepped into a role at the Kerry Town center that no one else wanted and was learning as it went. It said it is slowly opening more beds, as is the best practice. A month after the center opened, 40 of 80 planned beds are operational.
Another 12 beds are up and running just for health workers at Kerry Town, but that side of the clinic has also been controversial after rumors it would only accept foreigners or staff from British-built centers. The clinic accepts any infected front-line health worker, said Andrew Ewoku, a media manager for the charity in Sierra Leone.
Meanwhile, Japan provided more than 20,000 protective suits for health workers on Monday, the first batch of 700,000 it is donating to West Africa.
Associated Press writers Sarah DiLorenzo in Dakar, Senegal, and Edith M. Lederer at the United Nations, contributed to this report.