The last months of 2019 left its mark on our small organization, the surgical training program and Masanga Hospital. In November Lassa fever took the life of our beloved program coordinator Wouter Nolet. Another three staff members were infected during the fateful emergency procedure thats believed to be the cause of the outbreak in Masanga. In the following weeks anesthetist Foday and another nurse was treated successfully at the Lassa Unit in Kenema, while another dutch tropical doctor was evacuated and recovered at a hospital in Utrecht, Holland. All national contacts were monitored in Sierra Leone, while international staff, students and visiting trainers was repatriated. Masanga Hospital was placed under quarantine restriction. Inpatient care was ensured by the national staff under the leadership of SACHO Amara Conthe supported by the Medical superintendent of Masanga City Garden Clinic, the late Dr. Erdi Huizinga. During the 42 days of quarantine no other cases where detected.
A gradual reopening of Masanga Hospital began on the 6th of January supported by our trainer Dr. Katja Maschuw from Germany. This was meant to prepare the ground for an official re-opening on the 13th of January. Dr Katja described her experience as an emotional and warm hearted welcome back. The STP-student where highly motivated and eager to resume their training and the people of Masanga expressed that with the reopening of the hospital, hope and care was coming back. During the first week of preparations the team caught up with admissions and elective procedures as well as on the job training with the STP-students. The atmosphere was one of revival which Katja describes as a wonderful way of honoring the loving memory of Wouter.An official re-opening took place on the 13th of January and the hospital quickly resumed buisness as usual. The CapaCare training program commenced with the “basic surgical skills” course hosted by Dr. Katja and Tamba Kongoneh quickly followed by visiting trainers Dag from Norway and Ella from the UK.
We are so grateful that life has returned to normal in Masanga after a period of strain and grief. In the end we believe that the best way of honoring our fallen colleagues is to continue to care for our patients and continue our work to strengthen the healthcare system in Sierra Leone.