Out on the edge of the Liberian wilderness, the Firestone company – the tyre company, with rubber plantations in the West African nation ravaged by Ebola – has been showing the way in treatment and containment of the virus. Not because any special knowledge, but because they’re making best use of the knowledge they have.
The classic slogan for Firestone tires was "where the rubber meets the road." When it comes to Ebola, the rubber met the road at the Firestone rubber plantation in Harbel, Liberia. …
Firestone detected its first Ebola case on March 30, when an employee’s wife arrived from northern Liberia. She’d been caring for a disease-stricken woman and was herself diagnosed with the disease. Since then Firestone has done a remarkable job of keeping the virus at bay. Its built its own treatment centre and set up a comprehensive response that’s managed to quickly stop transmission. Dr. Brendan Flannery, the head of the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention’s team in Liberia, has hailed Firestone’s efforts as resourceful, innovative and effective.
Currently the only Ebola cases on the sprawling, 185-square-mile plantation are in patients who come from neighbouring towns.
What was so effective?
When the Ebola case was diagnosed, "we went in to crisis mode," recalls Ed Garcia (right), the managing director of Firestone Liberia. He redirected his entire management structure toward Ebola.
Garcia's team first tried to find a hospital in the capital to care for the woman. "Unfortunately, at that time, there was no facility that could accommodate her," he says. "So we quickly realized that we had to handle the situation ourselves." …
"None of us had any Ebola experience," he says. They scoured the Internet for information about how to treat Ebola. They cleared out a building on the hospital grounds and set up an isolation ward. They grabbed a bunch of hazmat suits for dealing with chemical spills at the rubber factory and gave them to the hospital staff. …
Firestone immediately quarantined the woman's family. Like so many Ebola patients, she died soon after being admitted to the ward. But no one else at Firestone got infected: not her family and not the workers who transported, treated and cared for her.The Firestone managers had the benefit of backing and resources of a major corporation — something the communities around them did not.
Firestone didn't see another Ebola case for four months. Then in August, as the epidemic raced through the nearby capital, patients with Ebola started appearing at the one hospital and several clinics across the giant rubber plantation. The hospital isolation ward was expanded to 23 beds and a prefab annex was built. Containing Ebola became the number-one priority of the company. Schools in the town, which have been closed by government decree, were transformed into quarantine centres. Teachers were dispatched for door-to-door outreach.
Hundreds of people with possible exposure to the virus were placed under quarantine. Seventy-two cases were reported. Forty-eight were treated in the hospital and 18 survived. By mid-September the company's Ebola treatment unit was nearly full.
As of this weekend, however, only three patients remained: a trio of boys age 4, 9 and 17….
Dr. Flannery of the CDC says a key reason for Firestone's success is the close monitoring of people who have potentially been exposed to the virus — and the moving of anyone who has had contact with an Ebola patient into voluntary quarantine.
By most accounts, this Ebola outbreak remains out of control, with health care workers across West Africa struggling to contain it.
Asked what's needed to turn that around, Flannery says, "More Firestones" — places that have the money, resources and unwavering determination to stop Ebola.
[Hat tip Against Crony Capitalism]