Bomi County, Liberia, has just two doctors
Logan takes care of patients in a holding facility, which has only 12 beds
He can't send them to real Ebola treatment centers because they're all full
Meet Dr. Gorbee Logan, the county health director for Bomi County in Liberia.
You have now met half the medical team in Bomi County.
There are two doctors in the entire county. I don’t mean two doctors to treat Ebola patients but two doctors, period.
Two doctors to take care of Ebola patients, plus the 100 patients in their general hospital, plus the rest of the county. That’s two doctors for about 85,000 people.
Logan doesn’t complain, even though he’s been working around the clock since June, when the first Ebola case appeared in this agricultural county.
He would, however, like an actual Ebola treatment center. He’s been taking care of patients in a holding facility, which has only 12 beds. Sometimes they have nearly double that number, and patients overflow onto mattresses on the floor.
He can’t send these patients to real Ebola treatment centers because they’re all full.
Logan has been begging the federal government for more than a month for an official Ebola treatment unit, one with more beds and a quarantine area for people who’ve come in close contact with Ebola patients but aren’t sick.
My team and I – senior producer John Bonifield, senior photographer Orlando Ruiz and our coordinator, Liberian journalist Orlind Cooper – saw firsthand Tuesday night just how much he needs a real hospital.
About 7 p.m., an ambulance arrived at Logan’s facility in Tubmanburg with five people who, the day before, had washed the bodies of a mother and daughter who had died of Ebola.
After they’d done the washing, their community kicked them out, Logan told us.
Now the five relatives – three adults, a 13-year-old and a 5-year-old – were in the ambulance in Ebola limbo. They couldn’t go back home, and they couldn’t go into the facility because they might get infected.
By the light of a single bulb outside the facility, Logan convened an impromptu meeting between himself, county Superintendent Samuel Brown and acting county Field Officer Frances Alesi.
It was decided they’d look for a government building of some kind where the family could spend the 21-day quarantine. The county health department would feed them and take care of their needs.
But they weren’t going to find a place until the morning. The five relatives would have to spend the night in the ambulance. Logan put in an order for a second ambulance so they could stretch out and sleep more comfortably.
Logan and his staff are doing a heroic job of taking care of Ebola patients under difficult circumstances. He’s strict about infection control – no health care workers have died on his watch – and he resourcefully tries different drugs to save his dying patients.
Here’s what I don’t understand: With the millions upon millions of dollars spent in West Africa on Ebola, why doesn’t this man get his treatment center? These centers are the single most important way to prevent the transmission of the disease, since they isolate the infected.
We left Tubmanburg and Logan and his ambulance full of Ebola contacts and headed back to Monrovia. I fell asleep in the car to the sounds of One Direction on my iPhone (I have tween daughters).
Just as the boys were telling me “What Makes You Beautiful,” the car came to a stop, and I heard the sounds of male yelling.
LIberian English is beautiful and mellifluous and largely incomprehensible to me, especially when spoken at loud volume with a lot of testosterone and passion behind it. But I figured out this was a checkpoint, and the young men with guns wanted us to get out and wash our hands and have our temperature taken.
Cooper, our coordinator and an accomplished Liberian journalist, argued with the guards. They didn’t back down. They told us the president of Liberia had been through the same checkpoint earlier in the day, and she’d gotten out for the wash and check. Cooper shot back that was fine for her, but we weren’t getting out of the car.
The screaming back and forth went on for about 20 minutes. Finally, Cooper won. We visibly and dramatically sprayed our hands inside the car with the disinfectant we had with us and leaned our heads out the window so they could check our temperature.
The guard aimed the thermometer at my temple; “36.4,” he said, and kept staring at me. I had a moment of anxiety – why was he staring? I don’t use Celsius every day, but I knew that was a normal temperature. I smiled back. After a few beats the guard moved on.
I invited One Direction back into my ears and fell asleep for the rest of the ride back to Monrovia.
CNN’s John Bonifield, Orlando Ruiz, and Orlind Cooper contributed to this story.