Pierre Trbovic, an anthropologist from Belgium working with Médecins Sans Frontières (MSF) at the ELWA Ebola Treatment Centre, one of two in the capital, Monrovia, was forced to turn patients away: He had no choice – the centre was full and could not safely admit more patients.
“The first person I had to turn away was a father who had brought in his sick daughter in the trunk of his car. He was an educated man, and he pleaded [with] me to take her, saying while he knew we couldn’t save her life, we could save the rest of his family from her. At that point I had to go behind one of the tents to cry,” says Trbovic in a written testimony.
Other families pulled up in cars, let the sick out and drove off, abandoning them. One mother tried to leave her baby on a chair hoping that doctors would have no choice but to care for the child.
In streamed the patients, “but there was nothing we could do. We couldn’t send them anywhere else – everywhere was, and still is, full.”
Health workers are already completely overwhelmed by the brutal job of providing palliative care for Ebola sufferers: Each morning dead bodies must be body-bagged, and blood, faeces and vomit cleaned from the ward – and if they take on more patients, they risk lowering their safety guard which could prove fatal.