Coordination of new teams of Ebola responders a big challenge

MSF’s Dr Armand Sprecher

“Coordination has been a routine failure in Ebola outbreak after Ebola outbreak,” Dr Armand Sprecher of MSF said during a roundtable discussion at the ASTMH conference in response to a question from a healthcare worker from Taiwan. She said her country would be sending a number of healthcare workers to the field soon and wanted to know who was going to be coordinating all the different groups and efforts.

“At MSF and WHO our resources are managed internally and although we talk to each other, I wouldn’t call it coordination. Coordination has been significantly absent in this outbreak and I don’t know that the coordination is going to get any better,” he said.

In press conference the following morning, he stressed, “We have been happy to have other partners come to the field to assist us…. But one of our biggest challenges right now is because of all of the arrival of new partners in the field we have a lot of new people to work with who want to respond—of course, seeking guidance and training and assistance in getting up to speed, MSF has to make it’s own operations do the things that we went to West Africa to do but also enable other organizations to do the same — that is stretching us even further.”

“We are running training programs that are bringing in people from other NGOs and other governmental agencies, and we are having people come and work alongside us in some of our field locations. But the demand for assistance goes beyond West Africa and we are trying to triage those as best we can. Additionally the sheer scale of the operation requires a significant amount of coordination and that in and of itself is a challenge when one is running as many centers as we are through several different operational centers in Europe, and bringing in people from all over the world, it’s a challenge in and of itself.”

“Another big challenge has just been management capacity – the people that run the public health agencies or public health officials and epidemiologists. They don’t teach management in medical school and they don’t teach management skills in public health school and once you are managing a team of hundreds of people running around and in dozens of vehicles covering hundreds of square kilometers, what you really need is somebody who’s a really good manager. And getting these skill sets into the field is something that we probably need to be better at,” he concluded.


Global Health Strategies generously supported Theo Smart’s attendance at the 63rd Annual American Society of Tropical Medicine and Hygiene Conference in New Orleans.

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