In an interview with United Methodist Communications in April, Dr. Martin Salia explains why he works in Sierra Leone. He provides health care to all who come to the hospitals where he serves. “I took this job not because I want to but because it was a calling and that God wanted me to,” he said.
Like many health care workers across the African continent, Dr. Salia’s motivation is deeply religious.
Dr. Salia is a key figure at Kissy Hospital run by The United Methodist Church of Sierra Leone. Sierra Leone has three physicians for every 100,000 persons in the country. Kissy is one of the facilities that Dr. Salia has been serving.
The average income in Sierra Leone is $347 per year. According to the U.S. State Department, this translates to “over 72 percent of the population living on less than $1 a day, in extreme poverty.”
Kissy serves those who cannot afford to pay for medical care. It is one of the faith-based hospitals that provide 40 percent of the health care across Africa. In the course of my work in reporting on Africa, I’ve been in clinics and hospitals like Kissy. I’ve seen people pay for services with chickens, goats and mangoes.
The world owes a debt of gratitude, and more, to health care workers like Dr. Salia. We should do all in our power and our resources to assist them.
At great personal cost, Dr. Salia’s spouse has arranged for him to come to the U.S. for treatment for Ebola. A physician who has given so much of himself in treating others, Dr. Salia is now an Ebola patient himself. Kissy Hospital has been forced to close temporarily.
This complicates the challenge of controlling this virus. It also adds to the burden of untreated cases of malaria, diarrhea and other killer diseases of poverty.
Tragedy upon tragedy. And yet, heroic individuals like Dr. Salia put themselves in harm’s way to bring well-being to West Africa.
Dr. Salia is going to the University of Nebraska Medical Center in Omaha for treatment. I’ve had intimate experience with this medical center. It’s among the nation’s best. I think the state can take great pride in its personnel to care for Dr. Salia.
We know that with proper care, equipment and interventions, the survival rate for Ebola patients treated in the U.S. is favorable. It’s understandable that people fear Ebola, but we know that control of the virus is possible. And after missteps in Dallas, the health care community has shown it can self-correct. It has demonstrated a capacity to care for this disease responsibly.
If ever there were a time for welcoming and hospitality, it is now. And if ever there were a time for the world to contain its fears about Ebola and act responsibly toward those who are working under extraordinarily difficult conditions to contain this virus, this is it.
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The Great Plains Conference of The United Methodist Church has established a fund to receive gifts toward the cost of his transportation to Omaha and related medical costs not covered by other sources. Contributions can be made through any United Methodist church, or sent directly to: Great Plains Conference Office, 4201 SW 15th, PO Box 4187, Topeka, KS 66604. Please put “Dr. Salia Fund” on the memo line.