Trust, and distrust, of Ebola Treatment Centers: A case-study from Sierra Leone

Paul Richards*, Esther Mokuwa, Pleun Welmers, Harro Maat, Ulrike Beisel

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticleAcademicpeer-review

5 Citations (Scopus)

Abstract

The paper considers local responses to the introduction of an Ebola Treatment Centre in eastern Sierra Leone during the West African epidemic of 2014–15. Our study used qualitative methods consisting of focus groups and interviews, to gather responses from patients, members of the families of survivors and deceased victims of the disease, social liaison workers from the centre, and members of the general public. The data indicate that scepticism and resistance were widespread at the outset, but that misconceptions were replaced, in the minds of those directly affected by the disease, by more positive later assessments. Social workers, and social contacts of families with workers in the centre, helped reshape these perceptions, but a major factor was direct experience of the disease. This is apparent in the positive endorsements by survivors and families who had members taken to the facility. Even relatives of deceased victims agreed that the case-handling centre was valuable. However, we also present evidence of continuing scepticism in the minds of members of the general public, who continue to suspect that Ebola was a crisis manufactured for external benefit. Our conclusions stress the importance of better connectivity between communities and Ebola facilities to facilitate experiential learning. There is also a need to address the wider cognitive shock caused by a well-funded Ebola health initiative arriving in communities with a long history of inadequate health care. Restoring trust in medicine requires Ebola Virus Disease to be re-contextualized within a broader framework of concern for the health of all citizens.

Original languageEnglish
Article numbere0224511
JournalPLoS ONE
Volume14
Issue number12
DOIs
Publication statusPublished - 2 Dec 2019

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