"IT'S AS THOUGH EBOLA INFECTED THE HEALTH SYSTEM ITSELF…" THE EXPECTATIONS, EXPERIENCES AND REFLECTIONS OF EAST AFRICAN HEALTH WORKERS VOLUNTEERING DURING THE 2014/2015 EBOLA OUTBREAK IN WEST AFRICA
(2016) "IT'S AS THOUGH EBOLA INFECTED THE HEALTH SYSTEM ITSELF…" THE EXPECTATIONS, EXPERIENCES AND REFLECTIONS OF EAST AFRICAN HEALTH WORKERS VOLUNTEERING DURING THE 2014/2015 EBOLA OUTBREAK IN WEST AFRICA, no. 54.
Introduction: This qualitative study aimed to describe Kenyan medical doctors' experiences during their prior to, during, and after their deployment in West Africa during the 2014 /2015 Ebola epidemic. Methods: Snowball sampling was used in July 2016 to recruit 6 Kenyan medical doctors who had recently returned from West Africa. In-depth interviews based on an interview guide were conducted to collect data. Findings: Respondents volunteered as part of career development and out of a sense of ethical responsibility. Prior to deployment, most experienced doubt about their safety and feared infection with Ebola. Their decisions were often questioned by their families, friends, and colleagues. On arrival, they experienced more fear of infection, encountered adverse weather, and were thrust into a rigorous pre-service schedule. Respondents were surprised at how underdeveloped the infrastructure was, how weak the health systems were, and they were often exasperated by the lack of basic resources. They faced emotionally draining situations, struggled to cope with intense work schedules, found leadership tasks and coordination of multi-cultural teams very challenging, and encountered many risky situations. Accountability for their welfare was not always clear. Conclusion: The volunteers were sub-optimally prepared and their psychosocial needs were not adequately met. However, they were still able to perform their duties perhaps partly because of their prior experiences working in resource-limited settings. The welfare of volunteers recruited is of utmost importance especially when the workers recruited have to take up high-risk deployments. There is a need for strategies to safeguard protect the health and wellbeing of health care paying attention to their unique needs.