USPHS pharmacists help staff Ebola treatment center in Liberia

RADM Scott F. Giberson has been in charge of the effort

As part of a mission to keep frontline health care workers in West Africa healthy and safe in order to stop the spread of Ebola Virus Disease (EVD), the U.S. Public Health Service Commissioned Corps (USPHS) opened a treatment center outside of the Liberian capital of Monrovia in mid-November. The 25-bed field hospital will treat Liberian and international health care workers who have suspected and confirmed cases of EVD.

More than one-half of health care workers in Liberia have died from EVD in the current epidemic, according to the World Health Organization.

“Ours is a specific mission—to provide safety and security,” RADM Scott F. Giberson, BSPharm, PhC, NCPS-PP, MPH, Acting U.S. Deputy Surgeon General and the overall commander in charge of the response, told “It’s one piece—but an integral one—in the overall effort to stop Ebola and take care of the West African people.”

Giberson recently returned to the United States after being in Liberia nearly 2 months overseeing the opening of the treatment center.

A team of 70 specialized officers from the USPHS—5 of whom are pharmacists—are staffing the treatment center. In general, over 1,000 pharmacists serve in the 6,000-member USPHS, which falls under the leadership of the Assistant Secretary of Health and the U.S. Surgeon General within the U.S. Department of Health & Human Services.

Giberson said pharmacists are perfectly skilled to be deployed to West Africa to assist with the crisis.

“Pharmacists wear many hats and our skillset is diverse,” he said.

At the treatment center, one of the five USPHS pharmacists is a deputy in charge. Others are staffing the pharmacy or working in infection control.

According to Kate Migliaccio, MPH, Senior Public Information Officer with USPHS, as of November 18, there were three stable patients at the new treatment center.

Reaction to the facility from both the U.S. government and international organizations has been positive. Many have sought out Giberson to thank him personally.

He plans to return to West Africa in early 2015 in his same role.

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