Ebola crisis: Sierra Leone health workers strike

Health workers in Sierra Leone Image copyright AFP
Image caption There have been almost 300 new Ebola cases in Sierra Leone in the past three days

Hundreds of health workers involved in treating Ebola patients have gone on strike at a clinic in Sierra Leone.

The staff are protesting about the government's failure to pay an agreed weekly $100 (£63) "hazard payment". A few are still assisting at the clinic.

The clinic, in Bandajuma near Bo, is the only Ebola treatment centre in southern Sierra Leone.

In Mali, a nurse and a patient became the second and third people thought to have died from Ebola there.

Nearly 5,000 people have been killed in the outbreak of Ebola in West Africa, mostly in Guinea, Liberia and Sierra Leone.

The World Health Organization (WHO) has declared the outbreak a global health emergency.

The Bandajuma clinic is run by medical charity MSF, which said it would be forced to close the facility if the strike continued.

MSF's emergency co-ordinator in Sierra Leone, Ewald Stars, told the BBC that about 60 patients had been left unattended because of the strike at the clinic in Bandajuma.

Those on strike include nurses, porters and cleaners.

Image copyright Reuters
Image caption The Pasteur Clinic in Bamako, Mali, is under armed guard after the death of a nurse and his patient

There are international staff at the clinic but they are unable to keep the clinic open on their own.

The staff, who are protesting outside the clinic, say the government agreed to the "hazard payments" when the facility was established but has failed to make any payments since September.

The money was due to be paid in addition to salaries the staff receive from MSF.

On Wednesday afternoon, a representative of the workers told the BBC that a few colleagues had returned to the ward to offer minimal assistance "in the interest of the patients who are our people".

However, he stressed that the strike was still on.

Earlier, representative Mohamed Mbawah told the BBC his colleagues had already turned away one ambulance.

The virus is continuing to spread in Sierra Leone, with almost 300 new infections recorded in the last three days.

Traditional healer

Also on Wednesday, the Malian authorities said that a nurse and the patient he was treating at a clinic in Bamako had died.

The 25-year-old nurse worked at the Pasteur Clinic, which has now been placed in quarantine. The government said the nurse was confirmed to have had Ebola.

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Media captionThe current outbreak is the deadliest since Ebola was discovered in 1976

His patient, a traditional Muslim healer in his 50s, had recently arrived from Guinea.

Officials believe the healer, who died from Ebola-like symptoms, passed the Ebola virus to the nurse.

However, he was buried without being tested for Ebola.

The latest deaths are unrelated to Mali's first Ebola case, when a two-year-old girl died from the disease in October.

The new cases in Mali follow the WHO's confirmation that 25 of the 100 people who were thought to have come into contact with the two-year-old girl were being released from quarantine.

The toddler's case alarmed the authorities in Mali after it was found she had displayed symptoms whilst travelling through the country by bus, including Bamako, on her return from neighbouring Guinea.

Emergency response

The current Ebola outbreak was first identified in Guinea in March, before it spread to neighbouring Liberia and Sierra Leone. The WHO says there are now more than 13,240 confirmed, suspected and probable cases, almost all of them in these countries.

Cases have also emerged, though on a much smaller scale, in Nigeria, Senegal, Spain and the US.

Mali launched an emergency response in conjunction with the WHO when the girl's situation came to light. Her family were among those released from quarantine on Monday.

Health department spokesman Markatie Daou said about 50 people were still under observation in Kayes, western Mali, and would be released in a week if they continued to display no symptoms.

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