Newspaper article The Evening Standard (London, England)

They Went to Sierra Leone to Train Local Medics and Stayed to Fight Ebola; Three Volunteers from London Refused to Fly Home When the Deadly Outbreak Struck. Kiran Randhawa Hears How Their Team Has Grown to Become a Vital Player in the Crisis

Newspaper article The Evening Standard (London, England)

They Went to Sierra Leone to Train Local Medics and Stayed to Fight Ebola; Three Volunteers from London Refused to Fly Home When the Deadly Outbreak Struck. Kiran Randhawa Hears How Their Team Has Grown to Become a Vital Player in the Crisis

Article excerpt

Byline: Kiran Randhawa

THREE medical volunteers from London who went to Sierra Leone to train local staff today said: "Staying to fight Ebola was the best decision we ever made."

The group from King's Health Partners had travelled to west Africa to work with trainee medics 18 months ago but faced an agonising decision of whether to stay or flee when the Ebola outbreak struck last summer.

Despite advice that they should leave, they decided they could not abandon the country "at the time of its greatest need". The team has since grown and become a vital player in the fight against the deadly disease.

Suzanne Thomas, who was part of the original trio along with Dr Oliver Johnson and Dr Ahmed Seedat, said: "We had quite a dilemma at the beginning, whether we should stay or go. We made a decision to stay. I'm glad we did, it was the best decision we made, even though it was one that made some people back in London very nervous.

"We didn't want to abandon the city at the time of its greatest need." The group are part of King's Sierra Leone Partnership which was launched by King's Health Partners and is supported by experts from King's College London, King's College Hospital, Guy's and St Thomas' hospitals and South London and Maudsley NHS trust.

Efforts are focused on the Connaught hospital in Freetown, and on building isolation units in the country.

After the first cases of Ebola were confirmed last May, 42 British volunteers travelled to Freetown to join the team including nurse Will Pooley, who suffered the disease but returned after being cured.

There is now a core team of 25 volunteers, including 18 Britons, working with local staff to help beat the crisis.

Ms Thomas, 43, originally from Stanmore, said: "We were just a core team of three and to think of what we are doing now compared to what we were doing then. …

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