Monday, 1 December 2014

I want to be an Ebola doctor....

Back in August when the world was slowly waking up to the scale of this epidemic in West Africa, I started thinking about how I could help. I started looking at MSF recruitment but they required doctors with 5 years training and infectious diseases specialists.  No-one else seemed to be recruiting. I was stuck, I would have to resort to watching it unsatisfactorily unfold on the tv screen.

Then on 22nd September this email arrived in my work inbox and within 24 hours I had applied. In October, I also applied to the Kings Sierra Leone Partnership. To be honest, I wasn't sure if I would be qualified enough to go so it seemed like quite a distant idea at the time. Ever since that time though, with every article and news programme I watched about the increasing numbers of patients affected and the relief efforts struggling to control it, I knew I wanted to go and help and the sooner the better.

I had my interview with KSLP on the 30th October, and a few days later it was confirmed that I would be ready for deployment at the beginning of December. Since then the weeks have been dragging by somewhat and now I'm just eager to get out there, do my PPE training, meet my colleagues, learn some Krio and help in the little way I can. Obviously as the time creeps closer, there have also been emotional ups and downs, fears coming and going, and recently a few teary goodbyes.

I recognise that I am in quite an unusually convenient position in my career to be able to volunteer. I am currently on a year 'out' of training with no family or financial dependence, giving me a huge degree of flexibility. At a discussion panel run by Alma Mata on Thursday night it was frustrating to hear that a number of doctors 'in' training who wanted to volunteer were struggling to be released from their NHS commitments. There are all sorts of barriers such as missing out on training, covering the rota, the threat of being quarantined on return (which currently doesn't and shouldn't happen, by the way, as it makes no sense from a public health perspective - there's no transmission in the asymptomatic incubation phase).  Financial reasons shouldn't be one because DFiD is reimbursing the cost of replacing the doctors so that routine NHS care can continue. (I love the NHS!) The sooner we sort out some of these barriers the quicker more volunteers can be deployed and help in the efforts to contain the epidemic.

Meanwhile, I have my flights booked... I leave on the 10th December, eek!

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