Liberian doctors strike, food prices spike as West Africa struggles to contain Ebola outbreak

Tue Sep 2, 2014 8:40pm GMT
 

By James Harding Giahyue

MONROVIA (Reuters) - Doctors in Liberia were out on strike on Tuesday as they struggled to cope with the outbreak of the deadly Ebola virus, while the United Nations warned the spread of the disease in West Africa was causing food shortages in one of the world's poorest regions.

Governments and aid organisations are scrambling to contain the disease, which has killed more than 1,500 since March. Medical charity Medecins Sans Frontieres (MSF) said 800 more beds for Ebola patients were urgently needed in the Liberian capital Monrovia alone, while in Sierra Leone highly infectious bodies were rotting in the streets.

MSF called for rich nations to send military medical teams to support buckling healthcare systems in West Africa.

U.S. missionary organisation SIM USA said on Tuesday that an American doctor treating obstetrics patients at the ELWA hospital in Monrovia had tested positive for Ebola. The doctor, who was not working in the hospital's Ebola treatment centre, was in an isolation ward at the hospital and was responding well so far, SIM said on its Web site.

Scores of staff went on strike at the John F. Kennedy Medical Center (JFK) in Monrovia in a protest over unpaid bonuses and working conditions. More than 120 healthworkers have died in West Africa during the Ebola outbreak amid shortages of equipment and trained staff.

"Health workers have died (fighting Ebola), including medical doctors at ... JFK and to have them come to work without food on their table, we think that is pathetic," George Williams, secretary general of the Health Workers Association of Liberia, told Reuters.

Williams said healthcare workers at JFK, the country's largest referral hospital, had gone unpaid for two months.

The strike followed a one-day protest over pay and conditions at the Connaught hospital in Sierra Leone's capital Freetown on Monday. Staff at the main Ebola clinic at Kenema in eastern Sierra Leone also walked off the job last week, in protest at conditions.   Continued...

Health workers surround an Ebola patient who escaped from quarantine from Monrovia's Elwa hospital, in the centre of Paynesville in this still image taken from a September 1, 2014 video. REUTERS/Reuters TV
 
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