British-run Ebola treatment facility opens in Sierra Leone

A British-run facility to treat people with Ebola is opening in Sierra Leone.

The 92-bed site in Kerry Town will be run jointly by the Department for International Development (DfID) and charity Save the Children.

The centre is the first of six which are being constructed by the British government as part of the effort to stop the spread of the disease.

The UK’s Disasters Emergency Committee says it has raised £13m for tackling Ebola, a week after its appeal launch.

The DEC, which is made up of 13 British aid charities, is helping to run treatment facilities and care centres.

The British Red Cross’s Ebola response manager, John English, described the British public’s response as “very generous” and said he hoped it would continue.

The facility at Kerry Town south of the capital Freetown includes a new blood testing laboratory. Six hundred more beds are planned at UK centres around the country in the coming months.

The centre also provides dedicated beds for infected healthcare workers and separate sites for confirmed and suspected cases.

Save the Children chief executive Justin Forsyth said there was a “race against time” to stop the disease spreading. He added: “The Ebola crisis that’s affecting Sierra Leone, but also Liberia and Guinea, is so enormous.

“We’re in a race against time to make sure we can prevent it spreading but also to treat people who have got Ebola and to build on for the future.

“But we’ve never done something like this treatment centre. It’s enormous for us and it was a risky decision, but it’s something I feel very proud about.”

Huge impact

The head of the DfID-led UK Ebola Taskforce, Donal Brown, predicted that the new centres “will have a huge impact”.

He told BBC Radio 4’s Today programme that the facilities were part of a wider strategy that includes community care centres and improved burial practices.

Workers being fitted with protective clothing at the Kerry Town centre Donal Brown of the UK Ebola Taskforce says progress is being made on containing infection
“We are making progress,” he said, pointing out that that four weeks ago “very few” bodies were being picked up for burial but now 100% of bodies reported were being buried within 24 hours.

International Development Secretary Justine Greening highlighted the current shortage of beds: “Patients are being turned away from hospitals, reducing their chance of survival and allowing the disease to spread.”

British Army engineers and Sierra Leonean construction workers had been “working round the clock” to complete the new treatment centre, she added, with “the potential to save countless lives.”

The Ebola outbreak in West Africa has killed some 5,000 people. Most of the deaths have been in Guinea, Liberia and Sierra Leone.

Ebola screening began at London’s Heathrow and Gatwick Airports, and at Eurostar terminals, in October.

Manchester Airport has now begun its screening programme for passengers from Liberia, Sierra Leone and Guinea.

People flying into Manchester from the at-risk countries will have their temperature taken, complete a risk questionnaire and receive advice on what to do if they think they have been affected.

Credit: BBC