Just over one year ago, in October 2014, the World Health Organization had announced that the fatality rate from Ebola, which by then had spread to large parts of West Africa and even to Europe and the USA, had reached seventy percent.
The countries that were most severely affected by the Ebola outbreak, Guinea, Liberia and Sierra Leone, have had their healthcare resources weakened by conflict and instability. These factors most likely hindered efforts to get appropriate medical care to the communities most in need at the height of the outbreak.
While Guinea’s victory over the virus should be celebrated, hospitals and healthcare providers in the wider West Africa region are still feeling the pressure of Ebola.
That is where Kansas-based nonprofit Clinic In A Can has been lending a hand. Since 2002, they have been retrofitting shipping containers with medical furniture and equipment to provide basic medical care where it is needed most. The clinics overcome many of the obstacles of building conventional hospitals, like cost, time and government limitations. They are acting as complementary clinics to help improve the way hospitals provide urgent care.
Several Clinic In A Can (CIC) units were shipped to Sierra Leone in March 2015 to aid the ongoing fight against Ebola there and increase access to urgently needed primary care. This has helped to ease the pressure being felt in hospitals in the area.
Masanga Hospital, located in a rural area around forty miles from Makeni, is operated by a group of healthcare professionals from Denmark, Holland, Norway and the United Kingdom. It currently serves approximately 400,000 people.
Upon receiving their CIC, Chief Medical Officer Dr. Jurre van Kesteren said, “This is like a dream come true. We had been looking for a separate unit that could serve as an examination room for outpatients and an emergency room for patients that come in during the night.”
“We have an interconnected electricity network and for emergency cases at night, we always have to turn on all the lights across the compound, which wakes everyone up. The Clinic in a Can is exactly what we were looking for! With its solar panels on top, it fits our needs perfectly.”
GE played a critical role in providing financial support, installing equipment and advising on how to optimize these mobile clinics for primary care and pandemic response.
The durable, high quality, self-contained clinics use solar power as their primary energy source. They can be deployed with ease in even the most challenging locations. In addition, they are climate controlled and equipped with a power generator, batteries, and water storage and filtration equipment for every eventuality.
“The re-locatable clinics are a great solution to support the country’s rudimentary health infrastructure, which has struggled to provide primary care and to treat Ebola victims at the height of the outbreak,” said Paul Morton, General Manager of Hospital & Healthcare Solutions (HHS) & Commercial Director of Solutions Division for GE Healthcare, Russia, Turkey, Central Asia, Middle East & Africa.
The CICs in Sierra Leone were permanently placed in Bombali, Koinadugu, Tambaka Chiefdom, and Kambia districts, where the communities were still experiencing isolated outbreaks of Ebola until late 2015.
Project Hope, the NGO operating the clinics, will continue to utilize the CICs, aiming to treat up to five thousand patients annually per clinic. Doctors and patients alike in Sierra Leone are truly excited and grateful to have these facilities at their disposal, and hope to mirror the success of neighboring Guinea in the very near future.
Clinic in a Can’s mobile clinics will be making an appearance at this year’s Arab Health conference in Dubai from January 25th – 28th. Two variations of the clinics will be presented: one for primary care, the other for trauma care.