A Congolese clinician’s frustration at being unable to give Ebola patients the quality of care they deserved has led to a ground-breaking innovation which revolutionises the treatment of patients with highly infectious diseases in areas with few resources.
When Dr. Richard Kojan, an intensive care unit (ICU) specialist, went to Guinea during the 2014 Ebola outbreak, he was forced to work in hot and cumbersome protective clothing which looked like a spacesuit, isolating him from his patients and limiting his interaction with them.
“It was impossible to monitor a patient properly,” he tells AllAfrica. “It was impossible to stay with a patient for long enough. It was impossible for a patient to see his or her doctor or nurse properly. It was very complicated.”
So when Dr. Kojan and a team from the Alliance for International Medical Action (Alima), the NGO for which they worked, finished their stint in Guinea, they studied how hospitals in Europe treated patients with highly infectious diseases.
They found that patients treated in Africa were seven times more likely to die than those in Europe.
“The mortality rate of patients treated for Ebola in Africa was 65 to 70%,” says Augustin Augier, the founder and chief executive officer of Alima. “At the same time, people treated in Western countries for the very same disease had a mortality rate of less than 10%.”
The solution Alima hit upon was to flip the practice of enclosing medical staff in protective gear and to place patients behind a protective shield.