The Ebola Outbreak and Staffing in Public Health Facilities in Rural Sierra Leone: Who is Left to do the Job?
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JournalPublic Health Action
AbstractSetting: The 82 public health facilities of rural Kailahun District, Sierra Leone. Objective: The 2014-2015 Ebola virus disease outbreak in Sierra Leone led the Ministry of Health and Sanitation and stakeholders to set minimum standards of staffing (medical/non-medical) for a basic package of essential health services (BPEHS). No district-level information exists on staffing levels in relation to the Ebola outbreak. We examined the staffing levels before the Ebola outbreak, during the last month of the outbreak and 4 months after the outbreak, as well as Ebola-related deaths among health care workers (HCWs). Design: This was a retrospective cross-sectional study. Results: Of 805 recommended medical staff (the minimum requirement for 82 health facilities), there were deficits of 539 (67%) pre-Ebola, 528 (65%) during the Ebola outbreak and 501 (62%) post-Ebola, hovering at staff shortages of >50% at all levels of health facilities. Of the 569 requisite non-medical staff, the gap remained consistent, at 92%, in the three time periods. Of the 1374 overall HCWs recommended by the BPEHS, the current staff shortage is 1026 (75%). Of 321 facility-based HCWs present during Ebola, there were 15 (14 medical and one non-medical staff) Ebola-related and three non-Ebola related deaths among HCWs. Conclusion: The post-Ebola health-related human resource deficit is alarmingly high, with very few staff available to work. We call for urgent political will, resources and international collaboration to address this situation.