Dar es Salaam: In a fragile health system, a national referral hospital prepares for Ebola

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Dr. Juma Mfinanga, emergency physician, Muhimbili National Hospital, in front of tents set up, if needed to isolate Ebola patients.

Emergency medicine is new here in Dar es Salaam, although the need for it is not. Trauma patients — predominately from motorcycle crashes in this congested city — make up the bulk of the emergency room cases, although illnesses stemming from HIV, other infectious diseases, and, at a growing rate psychiatric disorders, give a program training health staff from all over sub-Saharan Africa enough with which to work.

Add to that, now, training for Ebola screening and case management. In addition to the potential for a traveler with the virus to arrive that any nation faces, Tanzania is home to the fruit bats which can carry the virus and which, when prepared as bush meat, can be the origin of an epidemic among humans. So far, however, Tanzania has never experienced an outbreak of the disease, which now has exposed preparedness gaps in resource rich as well as fragile countries.

Dr. Juma Mfinanga, whose exceptionally youthful appearance is balanced by an air of steady confidence, acknowledges, “There are a lot of challenges. There are a lot of things that are needed.” Training, he says is the first among them. If it comes, he warns, “we will need a lot of support.”

 

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