A nurse who worked side by side with the British nurse who contracted ebola in Sierra Leone has become the latest healthcare professional at the hospital to die from the deadly virus, Nursing Times has learnt.
Sister Nancy Yoko died last week after spending more than three months nursing patients at the Ebola treatment centre in Kenema. Her colleague Matron Josephine Sindesellu told Nursing Times of the 26 local nurses that started working at the treatment centre in May only herself and one other nurse were left.
She said Sister Yoko was the nineteenth of the group to die from the virus. Five nurses contracted the virus but survived.
Ms Sindesellu said: “It’s not easy to work in the treatment centre. It’s scary but you just have to keep on doing the job. It’s not easy to see your colleagues die and become infected.”
British nurse William Pooley made a full recovery from the Ebola virus after being airlifted back to the UK and treated with the experimental ZMapp drug.
In an interview with The Guardian last week, Mr Pooley said he was considering returning to the West African country to help.
Speaking to Nursing Times over the phone from Sierra Leone, matron Sindesellu praised Mr Pooley and said she hoped he would return.
“We are looking for this type of people, they’re an inspiration,” she said.
Ms Sindesellu said she had been left “completely down” following Sister Yoko’s death and had been granted a break from the government run centre, where nurses regularly worked 14 hours a day for days on end.
Ebola is transmitted through contact with the bodily fluids of an infected person and has an incubation period of up to 21 days. Nurses at the treatment centre wear protective clothing but it is difficult to avoid all contact.
Ms Sindesellu told Nursing Times it was believed Sister Yoko had contracted the virus from a small boy she had been looking after when it was unknown he was infected with the virus.
At the end of August the World Health Organization reported more than 120 healthcare workers had died in the outbreak in West Africa, around 10 per cent of the total reported deaths.
Jo Dunlop, a freelance writer and development worker based in Sierra Leone who knew Sister Yoko, told Nursing Times she had been the “back bone” of the hospital.
“I don’t know how you get up every morning and keep facing that horror. She was obviously a very motivated nurse. So many nurses have run away and haven’t come to work, understandably,” she said.
Sierra Leone has a similar size population to Scotland but has around 1,000 nurses compared to almost 42,000 working in Scotland.
Becky Cridford, a nurse who spent 15 months working in a children’s hospital in Sierra Leone between 2010 and 2012, said the conditions were “exceptionally challenging”.
Ms Cridford, who worked as an accident and emergency nurse in London for eight years, told Nursing Times there was a lack of suitably trained nursing staff.
She said: “There are quite often a lot of bums on seats but not everybody’s got the skills to do what needs to be done. There is a big lack of doctors and a very top down structure; if you’re waiting for a doctor to tell you to do something you’ll be waiting a long time.
“Nurses are quite academically trained and are asked to do things that are well beyond their role and it’s difficult getting hold of drugs and equipment.
“Then you get the knock on effect of nurses who are struggling to do the job [as well as] they want to.
“I would challenge anyone to remain a fully motivated nurse in those circumstances. There are some nurses that do and they are inspirational.”