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Sierra Leone News: We will use force if… NERC boss

CEO Alfred Palo ContehChief Executive Officer of National Ebola Response Center (NERC), Retired Major Palo Conteh says that he had been using the soft approach but people have refused to change, so now he will use military tactics to fight Ebola.
The retired Major and Defence Minister  said since he took over NERC on November 1, he has been calling on Sierra Leoneans to change their attitude for Ebola to be eradicated, but if they continue in this vein, he will be left with no alternative but to use force.
He made this pronouncement during his weekly press briefing at the Special Court yesterday. He said since Ebola started, they have been sensitizing the public to follow all the preventive measures, including not touching sick people, should not wash dead bodies, report every case to the nearest health center or call 117, but said the number of infections keep rising.
This he said, will force him to use force to combat the spread.
“I am now using the ‘carrot and stick approach’, I have been giving out the carrot since I took over but our people still do the wrong things, When I start using the stick, I will see all kinds of headlines in papers and radio programmes but will not be deterred by them” he said.
Rtd. Maj. Palo Conteh said over the weekend, a chief in Bombali was penalized by the President for failing to do the right thing. “He was fined heavily and his staff taken”, this he said will send the right message to others who fail to adhere to the directives of the Government.
Talking about the allowances being paid to health workers, he said it is frustrating to see how some of these people are cheating, and creating problems for them.
The NERC boss said some go to  one region to collect money and then travel to another to collect again. “Even at this crucial time that people are dying, there are others who think they need to enrich themselves, as they don’t want this epidemic to come to an end. However, we will deal with the issue decisively and those who are caught in this act will be punished.”
He said President Koroma yesterday morning called the wife of late Dr Martin Sallia to console and sympathize with her and the family for the loss. He said it was a good decision taken by the President and he hoped the wife would understand that the Government and people are with her at this time of mourning.
However, he stressed that US Center for Disease Control did a survey and they found out that 70 percent of health workers who have died, never contacted the disease within Government hospitals or Treatment centers. “This is the reason why I have advised the Chief Medical Officer to take a stern decision that if you are working for Government, you should stop all private practices until Ebola is over.”
The CEO said NERC is determined to win this fight, as they are coordinating the efforts of all supporting countries and agencies to synchronize their efforts, so they can work as a team. He said more beds are needed and the other facilities built by the British will be up and running by the end of the month, which he said will be about 700 beds, to help win the battle.
He said he was saddened by the death of two doctors within 24 hours and sent out his condolences to the family while hoping that no more will die. He said the Kerry Town center is gradually picking up and will soon be effective in the fight.
When asked if they will think of using the Ebola patient for cash approach that the UN used in terms of ‘arms for cash’ to end the war, he laughed and said it is not a bad idea, as they are looking out for any option that will bring the scourge to an end. He said they will discuss it in their meetings and any other options they have to kick the virus out of the country.
Retired Major Palo Conteh appealed to the Press to continue to send out the right message to the people, who have still refused to change their attitude. He also said the President was in Magburuka and spoke in Temne to them, so they will understand, but after they left there, they received a disturbing message of a corpse that was exhumed and action will be taken against them soon.
He said the coordination is fine and they will continue to work with all agencies and friends as they fight to win this battle.
Thursday November 20, 2014

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