Probitas grieves the death of missionary García Viejo, who had been working with the foundation since 2010

Probitas grieves the death of missionary García Viejo, who had been working with the foundation since 2010

  • Missionary García Viejo, who died last Thursday, was the medical director of the Lunsar hospital, with which the Probitas Foundation collaboratores
  • Sant Joan de Deu Hospital in Barcelona is making an emergency appeal to curtail the threat of the virus

He had spent nearly half his life living in Africa. He was a humble man who loved his work and the African continent. A tireless worker, he was a model of dedication and commitment for the local people. Missionary Manuel García Viejo died on Thursday at the age of 69 from the Ebola virus, four days after being repatriated to Spain by the Spanish government to be cared for at the La Paz-Carlos III Hospital in Madrid. The missionary was the medical director of the Saint John of God Hospital in Mabesseneh in which the Probitas Foundation has been working since 2010 to improve hospital's health infrastructures and equipment by supplying photovoltaic energy and since 2013 to implement a program to improve diagnosis of the most prevalent diseases (GLI-Lunsar).

In fact, although the missionary worked at the hospital's operating room making the best of the precarious resources available, he thought that the new laboratory would be of great help when assessing patients prior to surgery and during pot-op follow-up. The Probitas Foundation grieves his death and sends a message of support to his colleagues and family.

Up until last Sunday, the missionary was being cared for at an Ebola Unit in the Freetown hospital after being diagnosed with the virus infection on Saturday.  At that point, he expressed the will to be transferred to Spain.

The repatriation took place on Monday, coinciding with the end of the curfew imposed last Friday by authorities in Sierra Leone to keep its population of six million indoors. This measure allowed dozens of new cases of Ebola to be identified. This Ebola outbreak is the worst in history. It has already killed over 2,800 people and affected over 5,800, according to the latest data by the World Health Organization (WHO).

In response, Barcelona's Sant Joan de Deu Hospital, with which the Probitas Foundation collaborates through the GLI Lunsar program, made an emergency appeal, asking for the public to get involved through the 'Implícate' (Get Involved) campaign[BD2] . The campaign is designed to raise funds and enable greater resources to combat the Ebola outbreak. "It's serious and it's out of control," a statement on the blog of the Twinning Program of Sant Joan de Deu with Sierra Leone warns.

Probitas Foundation is studying the possibility of responding to this emergency appeal made by the Twinning Program by collaborating with the NGO Juan Ciudad to send containers to Liberia and Sierra Leone in October and November, respectively. The containers would hold protective equipment such as face masks, gloves, goggles and serums, as well as injection supplies and essential medicines for infected patients and for patients requiring urgent medication for other diseases.

In addition to Manuel García, eight workers (three men and five women, including a senior nursing student) have already lost their lives to Ebola at Saint John of God Hospital in Lunsar. All of them died after catching the virus while caring for patients in the outpatient service and in hospital wards. Through a statement published on the same Twinning Program blog, the managing director of the Mabesseneh hospital, Michael M. Koroma, informed that the threat of spread of the virus made it necessary to close the hospital for disinfection and that during the quarantine period a total of 78 people suspected of being affected by the virus were detected.

According to Koroma, the hospital reopened the outpatient and in-patient service on September 9th, with the possibility of housing 20 patients. The infection of García Viejo forced the hospital's doors to close once again to enable a reassessment of the health status of medical personnel who worked closely with the missionary. At this time, the center remains closed.

Health authorities, including the WHO and other organizations working in the field have warned over the course of these past six months that the world is facing a "public health emergency of international concern" and have repeatedly ask for  more resources to combat this outbreak. They also condemn the cancellation of flights and closing borders, which hampers the entry of trained personnel and emergency material and isolates affected countries even more.

The director and professor of Global Health at the London School of Hygiene & Tropical Medicine, Peter Piot, agrees with the grievances made by the organizations on the ground. In his article 'Ébola's perfect storm'  published last September 12th in the magazine "Science", Piot stresses that "the immediate needs are enormous." He adds that more support is needed for disease control activities, such as the provision of protective equipment, patient care, and addressing the health, nutritional and other needs of populations in quarantine.

The scientist also states that the cancellation of international flights to the infected countries creates an obstacle for international support, and that there are growing concerns about sending medical help without a plan of treatment for these workers. Around 150 doctors and nurses have died of Ebola and 240 medical personnel are infected. "The time remains opportune to accelerate clinical evaluation of experimental therapies, vaccines and diagnostics, in compliance with ethical and scientific standards for trials," Piot says.

Sierra Leone is the Western African country with the second highest number of Ebola patients, with over 1,600 cases, over 500 of whom have died. This outbreak, the first of its kind in Western Africa, began in Conakry (Guinea) last March and later spread to Liberia and Sierra Leone and to a lesser extent to Nigeria and Senegal, where a single isolated case has been detected.

With Manuel García Viejo, there have been two missionaries with Ebola repatriated to Spain after Miguel Pajares died in mid-August at the La Paz-Carlos III Hospital in Madrid, where he was admitted after contracting the infection in Liberia. García Viejo died this past Thursday, September 25, four days after being taken to Carlos III Hospital in serious condition with liver and kidney complications. He could not be given the experimental serum ZMapp, as it was no longer available, and although other alternatives were sought,  they could not be administered. The staff at Saint John of God Hospital in Mabesseneh, where García Viejo had worked for 12 years, showed their condolences for the loss of this outstanding team member.

For further information on the origin of the outbreak, read this article: "Ebola reaches Sierra Leone."