ISSN (Print) - 0012-9976 | ISSN (Online) - 2349-8846

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Health Workers in the Time of Ebola

This letter is in response to the editorial, “In the Time of Ebola” (EPW, 8 November 2014). Among the many relevant points, the editorial mentions the shortage of healthcare workers in the Ebola-affected countries in west Africa. This problem has been worsened by the high fatality rate among health workers who contracted Ebola while caring for the sick in west Africa. Among the 570 health workers who were known to have been infected with Ebola, 324 (57%) have died. This is even worse than the fatality rate in the general population (36%, 5,165 patients died out of 14,383 infected with Ebola). At the same time, 80% of the Ebola patients (who were mostly health workers) treated in the US survived because of the high-quality healthcare they received. Unfortunately, health workers from west African countries were left at the mercy of the poor quality healthcare available locally. So much for their sacrifice and courage to volunteer despite being aware of the danger of doidng so.

This glaring injustice has been ignored by the governments of the rich western countries and by the inter­national organisations. Health workers are a precious resource and should not be wasted like this. All health workers, irrespective of nationality, should receive the same level of treatment. This is not only ethical but also practical. A reassurance of quality care would motivate many more health workers to volunteer in west Africa. This will be critical if we wish to control Ebola at its source.

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