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Meet Sierra Leone’s Essential Workers: The Medical Officer

by Alhassan Lamin
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I manage a 150-bed facility for Tuberculosis and Leprosy patients. We are a team of 100 staff including doctors, nurses, lab technicians, scientists, cleaners, and volunteers. Our patients can stay here for more than 6 months. They get 3 meals a day and try our best to meet their needs. We are now the only facility admitting patients with TB and MultiDrug-Resistant (MDR) TB, other hospitals refuse to take patients because both TB and COVID-19 present some of the same symptoms. We set up an isolation unit for suspected cases of COVID-19 but so far thankfully, no one has tested positive. It would be dangerous for a patient who has TB because it would add a respiratory infection to a pre-existing acute disease. ⁠

We’ve had a very good success rate with treating MDR. Before we started our MDR Treatment Program two years ago there was nothing we could do for patients. Many of them died. Now we treat them because we have a new lab that can both test for MDR and to identify which drugs the patient is resistant to. We keep patients for as long as they need to limit community transmission. In addition to the MDR Program, we are proud that we haven’t had any staff members sick here from TB in a very long time. We take lots of precautions to protect our staff because there is a stigma associated with TB. ⁠

I began my career at the Lakka Government Hospital back in 2013 as a medical officer. I took over administration last year. Since becoming the head of admin I’ve been able to work with Partner In Health (PIH) to complete the refurbishment of one of our buildings, and we now have a staff bus and a functioning ambulance. We have lots of challenges but we do the best we can, for every patient, every day. We need people to remember that while COVID-19 is important, we have to continue to treat other diseases. ⁠

Credit: Essential Stories/OSIWA

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