Published: 00:01, 09 November 2014
An army medic who travelled to Sierra Leone to help an emergency response unit said he will stay until “Ebola is over”.
Andy Hall, who is also a Maidstone fitness instructor, is working as a frontline nurse in an isolation unit at the Connaught Hospital in Freetown.
He is labouring alongside the King’s Sierra Leone Partnership run by King’s Health Partners Academic Health Services Centre, sharing knowledge of UK medicine and procedures with west African colleagues.
The death toll from Ebola has reached 4,818 with 13,042 known cases reported across Guinea, Liberia and Sierra Leone.
The team has helped establish a further three isolation units in existing health facilities across the disease-stricken region.
Andy’s role is to design and manage the construction, while training local staff.
The 25-year-old said: “We’re doing our best in very difficult circumstances. The facilities are basic and we’re limited by a lack of equipment and medicine. It is very difficult to see normally healthy people dying. It’s incomparable to what most people have seen.”
It’s not the first time he’s been in Freetown – he visited in August where his experience of building military field hospitals was used to assist development. He returned last month after a brief visit home.
He added: “My family are worried but I have been in a lot of high risk situations before, it never gets any easier for them.
“I’m concerned how much my parents worry. I wish there was a way I could convince them I’m OK and what I’m doing is worth the risk.
“Fear is not a good enough excuse not to do this.”
Working in protective suits makes treatment in an average daily heat of 31 degrees very difficult.
Mr Hall, from Larkfield, added: “It’s exhausting work, it’s hot and you get dehydrated.
“Treating kids is really hard, such a high proportion of them die, it’s emotionally difficult but when you get a child who survives it makes all the other bad days worth it.”
He first became involved with the partnership by signing up to run a trauma training programme.
During recruitment his role was shifted to infection control in preparation for potential Ebola cases.
He added: “By the time I arrived the virus had spread rapidly and for weeks I was the only international nurse working in the isolation unit. I don’t feel I could justify walking away from this response.”
The dedicate nurse witnesses death every day and believes more support is needed. This week a 92-bed isolation unit, constructed by the British government, is being opened in Kerry Town.
Andy said: “The international response is being scaled up but it’s been slow, due to a lack of political will by foreign governments to support a region of the world that is largely forgotten.
“This outbreak will be brought under control by heroic local staff who work alongside international organisations like King’s. These health care workers turn up for work to help their country and their people despite the risks. They are fronting up to this crisis and fighting it head on as hard as they can. “
Andy is committed to the cause and said he will do everything he can to help.
“I will stay until Ebola is over. I want to be here when the World Health Organisation announces that the country is Ebola free,” he added.
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More by this authorAnnabel Rusbridge-Thomas