British-funded Ebola treatment centre opens in Sierra Leone

The new sign outside the Ebola treatment facility in Kerry Town, Sierra Leone Credit: MoD

An Ebola treatment centre funded by British taxpayer money is opening its doors to its first patients in Sierra Leone today.

The 92-bed treatment centre in Kerry Town, around 30 miles (50km) from the capital Freetown, was built by British Army Royal Engineers.

An on-site laboratory means local people can be tested for the virus quickly, while those that are infected will be treated in purpose-built isolation wards.

Andy Masa, the director of the centre, said it would provide a wide range of vital services:

We will do the very best for the Sierra Leone people, not only in terms of treating the people, but also in training as part of the whole rebuilding package and ensuring that those who do survive are reintegrated into society as quickly and is effectively as possible.

Andy Masa, centre director

It will be staffed by an international team of British Army medics, Sierra Leonean healthcare workers, Cuban doctors and nurses, and staff from Save the Children.

Scientists from Public Health England will operate a laboratory to test blood samples for the deadly virus.

There will be 200 frontline medical staff supported by up to 70 non-clinical support staff and more than 100 hygienists.

A separate wing of the centre, run by British Army medics, will provide 12 beds for Sierra Leonean and international healthcare workers who have contracted the virus.

Aerial pictures of the treatment facility in Kerry Town, Sierra Leone Credit: DFID
Map showing the layout of the Ebola treatment centre in Kerry Town Credit: DFID

Britain has committed £230 million to support the Ebola outbreak, which has claimed almost 5,000 lives including more than 1,000 in Sierra Leone.

Ebola-fighting supplies at the treatment centre Credit: MoD

Sierra Leone, which has seen the number of new Ebola cases rise for six consecutive weeks, is one of the countries in the region most gravely affected by Ebola, leaving its population and health-care system completely overwhelmed.

Rob MacGillivray, country director, save the children
One of the isolated wards for treating Ebola patients Credit: MoD/Staff Sergeant Tom Robinson RLC, Crown copyright

International Development Secretary Justine Greening said the centre represents just some of the 700 beds being provided in the country by British aid.

Sierra Leone does not have enough hospital beds to cope with the scale of the Ebola crisis. Patients are being turned away from hospitals, reducing their chance of survival and allowing the disease to spread ... This treatment facility, the first of six British-built centres, will give patients the care they need to fight Ebola, limiting the spread of this terrible disease.

International Development Secretary Justine Greening

Britain is also sending three Royal Navy Merlin helicopters and crew, to help move equipment and personnel.

They will be supported by RFA Argus which arrived on 30th October to begin its mission in the region.