Unexpected benefits from ambulance deployment
June 11, 2015
Carrie Jo Cain, RN, Program Manager for World Hope International, helped operate the ambulance program in Sierra Leone’s Bombali district. She describes the environment before the ambulances arrived as chaotic, with no way to get sick people into treatment centers, and no way to get well people home.
When they arrived, the ambulances were immediately put to use returning well patients home, which achieved two important benefits. The first was freeing up room and resources in treatment centers. The second was reuniting people with their families. An unexpected and beautiful side effect of this second benefit was that the ambulance service communicated to villages that Ebola is survivable, and that people who return are immune, not contagious and safe to welcome back home. Drivers were trained in sensitizing communities to these facts, and survivors returning home by ambulance were no longer shunned or rejected by their communities. This is important to note, because communities that accept their returning survivors are likely to recover from an epidemic more quickly due to their increased ability to pick up the pieces of their former lives. Without that recovery, economic empowerment would be further out of reach in the tumultuous epidemic wake.
It’s worth noting that six locals were hired as drivers and received valuable driving and healthcare experience and training. Carrie Jo credits these drivers – Mohamed (an Ebola survivor himself) [link to Mohamed story], Bakar K., Samuel, Rashid, Bakar J. and Nathaniel – for being the heart of the program. Indeed, at a survivor conference of about 300, the drivers were the “heroes” and the ones the attendees all wanted to see, hug and thank.