Global Communities Recognized as Monrovia Medical Unit Closes

Global Communities Recognized as Monrovia Medical Unit Closes

By Stephen Farshing, Global Communities

On April 30th the Monrovia Medical Unit (MMU) – a 25-bed hospital dedicated to providing care to healthcare workers who became infected with Ebola during the crisis – was closed by the United States Public Health Service (USPHS) Commissioned Corps and handed over to the Government of Liberia.

servicemen
Servicemen and women of the USPHS Commissioned Corps stand at attention during the closing ceremony for the MMU

Through the USAID-funded Assisting Liberians with Education to Reduce Transmission (ALERT) Program, Global Communities took the lead on managing four medical waste incinerators at the MMU, a critical piece to disposing of potentially hazardous and contaminated materials.

Alonzo Bayah
Global Communities Incineration Supervisor Alonzo Bayah with the decommissioned medical waste incinerators at the MMU

Leading the handover ceremony was Liberian President Ellen Johnson Sirleaf, U.S. Ambassador Deborah Malac and Surgeon General of the U.S. Vivek Murthy.

Madame Ambassador Malac: “I want to say thank you to USAID’s Office of Foreign Disaster Assistance and the DART for funding the MMU and for your tireless efforts in this fight…I also want to thank all of you here, all of our many partners. I say thank you to all of our NGO partners for supporting the Liberian government’s response effort. But most importantly, we need to celebrate the work that the Liberian people themselves did.”

Ambassador Malac
Ambassador Malac addresses the audience and thanks partners as well as the Government and People of Liberia

President Sirleaf highlighted three main lessons learned during the crisis: improving preparedness in the health system for infection control; harnessing the power of participation of community leaders to take charge in the fight; and maintaining partnerships to collectively work toward eliminating the virus.

“During this crisis we turned to our first line of heroes,” President Sirleaf said. “To our doctors who themselves were dying. To our nurses who themselves were dying. We turned to them for the expertise we did not have. And they rallied…The United States government and partners also responded in a very significant way. President Obama responded in a very personal way…Many brave men and women came here to support us and to construct this place that would save our doctors.”

President Sirleaf
President Sirleaf reflects on the Ebola crisis and recognizes the critical elements that have carried Liberia forward

As the United States and USPHS flags were lowered from the MMU, Rear Admiral Scott Giberson, Director, Division of Commissioned Corps Personnel and Readiness addressed the audience: “The hauling down of the colors signifies the transition of the Monrovia Medical Unit from the U.S. Government to the People of Liberia on this day, April 30, 2015.”

After the close of the ceremony, President Sirleaf stopped to speak with Global Communities staff and thank them for their efforts during the crisis both at the MMU and throughout the country. “I want to thank your team for all the work you have done, especially with burial teams,” President Sirleaf said to Global Communities Environmental Health Advisor, George Woryonwon. “This was very critical work and I am grateful for what you have done.”

Ambassador Malac & President Sirleaf
President Sirleaf and Ambassador Malac thank Global Communities staff George Woryonwon and Piet deVries for their work during the crisis

Later in the day, Global Communities received a visit at the safe burial site, Disco Hill, from Surgeon General Murthy, service men and women of the USPHS Commissioned Corps and members of the USAID DART. Since the end of December, Global Communities has supported over 950 burials at Disco Hill, a true testament to organizational adaptability and the ability to manage stakeholder relationships with the Government of Liberia and community members. “Mortuary management is not an easy task in and of itself, and seeing how you all did this so well in a crisis zone is truly impressive,” noted Rear Admiral Giberson.

deVries, Murthy
Senior WASH Technical Advisor Piet deVries presents Surgeon General Murthy with a Global Communities hat

 
Disco HillMatt Ward, Burial Site Manager, explains Disco Hill’s layout and operations to Surgeon General Murthy

After a brief tour of the safe burial site and seeing its daily operations Surgeon General Murthy concluded: “We cannot thank you [Global Communities] enough for all you have done to support safe burials during this crisis. Your work at this site has been amazing and it is an honor to be here and witness your team’s efforts.”

Disco Hill
Bayah, Surgeon General Murthy and Ward discuss how incineration of medical waste currently works at Disco Hill