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First British Ebola treatment facility opens in Sierra Leone

A new British Ebola treatment facility opens to patients today in Kerry Town, near the Sierra Leone capital Freetown.

The Kerry Town complex includes an 80 bed treatment centre to be managed by Save the Children and a 12 bed centre staffed by British Army medics specifically for health care workers and international staff responding to the Ebola crisis. The 12 bed facility is expected to expand to 20 beds in the New Year.

The construction of the treatment facility was funded by the Department for International Development and designed and overseen by British Army Royal Engineers. It is the first of 6 centres to be built by Britain in a bid to contain, control and defeat Ebola in Sierra Leone.

The scale of the Ebola crisis has left Sierra Leone with a severe shortage of beds to treat Ebola patients. The WHO estimates that there are currently just 326 treatment beds in Sierra Leone.

The site also hosts an Ebola testing laboratory run by British scientists to accurately diagnose patients. The lab began operating last week and has doubled the country’s lab capacity.

Plan of Kerry Town treatment centre – see full-size graphic on Flickr

Infographic: Ricci Coughlan/DFID
Infographic: Ricci Coughlan/DFID

Justine Greening, International Development Secretary, said:

Sierra Leone does not have enough hospital beds to cope with the scale of the Ebola crisis. Patients are being turned away from hospitals, reducing their chance of survival and allowing the disease to spread.

That is why British Army Engineers together with Sierra Leonean construction workers have been working round the clock for the last eight weeks to get Kerry Town built. This treatment facility, the first of six British-built centres, will give patients the care they need to fight Ebola, limiting the spread of this terrible disease.

I pay tribute to Save the Children and to the heroic British medics, Sierra Leonean health workers and international volunteers whose work in this facility has the potential to save countless lives.

Minister for the Armed Forces, Mark Francois said:

The completion of the Kerry Town treatment facility is a testament to the hard work and ability of the Armed Forces. Without the effort of our troops, the steps taken so quickly to assist in tackling this unprecedented epidemic would not have been possible.

We should all be immensely proud of what the Armed Forces have achieved in such a short space of time. The UK has been at the forefront of responding to the epidemic and our medics will now continue the great work already carried out.

Save the Children is recruiting over 200 clinical staff as well as many more support staff to help run the Kerry Town Ebola treatment centre.

Justin Forsyth, CEO Save the Children, who has recently returned from Sierra Leone, said:

The Kerry Town treatment centre is critical to the fight against Ebola.

On my recent trip I was moved by the impact on children. I met one girl who lost her entire family and then all her possessions when her house was burnt down, leaving her with nothing. She said I am completely alone. We must stand with children like Emma in their hour of need.

I was inspired by Save the Children staff, both Sierra Leonean and international, on the front line, fighting the spread of Ebola. They are heroes, putting their lives on the line every day.

I’m proud of Save the Children’s partnership with UK Aid, working together with DFID and the Army to build and run Kerry Town. But we know we need to redouble our efforts if we are to get ahead of this crisis. We are in a life and death race against time.

The 12 bed facility, which will be enlarged to 20 beds after 60 days, will be staffed by medics from the British Army’s 22 Field Hospital Army for the first 4 months of operation.

The total capacity of the 80 bed facility will be phased in over the coming weeks, giving staff time to ensure a safe environment for patients and staff and reduce the risk of infection.

Construction has begun on 5 other treatment facilities, at Port Loko, Makeni, Moyamba, and two more centres in Freetown. Once built these facilities will take the number of UK-supported beds to over 700, providing direct medical care to up to 8,800 patients over 6 months.

Britain’s wider £230 million Ebola response package includes funding for burial teams to increase capacity and work with communities on new burial practices, the roll out of up to 200 new community care centres and help to shore up the country’s stretched public health services to help contain the disease. This includes vital supplies such as chlorine and protective clothing for thousands of health workers.

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