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The U.S. Ebola Hospitals In Liberia Are Going Up ... Slowly
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The U.S. Ebola Hospitals In Liberia Are Going Up ... Slowly

The Ebola Outbreak

The U.S. Ebola Hospitals In Liberia Are Going Up ... Slowly

The U.S. Ebola Hospitals In Liberia Are Going Up ... Slowly
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  • The construction of a 300-bed Ebola treatment unit is underway in front of the former Ministry of Defense building in Monrovia, Liberia's capital.
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    The construction of a 300-bed Ebola treatment unit is underway in front of the former Ministry of Defense building in Monrovia, Liberia's capital.
    John Poole/NPR
  • Workers cut framing for the facility.
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    Workers cut framing for the facility.
    John Poole/NPR
  • It's rainy season in Liberia, and that can mean construction delays.
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    It's rainy season in Liberia, and that can mean construction delays.

    John Poole/NPR
  • This hangar at the Monrovia airport is being used by the U.S. military to store supplies for the 25-bed hospital for health care workers.
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    This hangar at the Monrovia airport is being used by the U.S. military to store supplies for the 25-bed hospital for health care workers.
    John Poole/NPR
  • A worker from a local construction company levels gravel at the site of the 25-bed Ebola treatment center.
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    A worker from a local construction company levels gravel at the site of the 25-bed Ebola treatment center.
    John Poole/NPR
  • Some 60 men stand at the edge of the construction site for the 25-bed unit, hoping for work. Currently, no jobs are available for them.
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    Some 60 men stand at the edge of the construction site for the 25-bed unit, hoping for work. Currently, no jobs are available for them.
    John Poole/NPR
  • This tent will shelter 100 of the 300 beds at the Ebola treatment unit for the general public.
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    This tent will shelter 100 of the 300 beds at the Ebola treatment unit for the general public.
    John Poole/NPR

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Last month, the United States made two promises to Liberia.

On Sept. 8, Obama pledged that the U.S. would construct a 25-bed hospital outside Monrovia, the capital, to treat health care workers. They've been bearing the brunt of the outbreak: In Liberia alone, at least 188 health workers have been infected and 94 have died.

Then, on Sept. 16, Obama announced a massive response to the outbreak, involving thousands of U.S. troops on the ground to train health care workers, deliver relief supplies and build 17 Ebola treatment centers for the general public.

At the time of the announcement, Obama stressed that time is of the essence. "It's spiraling out of control. It is getting worse. It's spreading faster and exponentially," he said at the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention in Atlanta. "Today, thousands of people in West Africa are infected. That number could rapidly grow to tens of thousands."

Yet progress on the hospitals has been slow.

As NPR's Jason Beaubien reports from Liberia, a month later, workers are still spreading gravel on the construction site of the 25-bed hospital. Standing on the side are dozens of locals looking for work.

Without health care workers, the hospital won't be able to open its doors. NPR's Nurith Aizenman is in Anniston, Ala., where officers from the U.S. Public Health Services, who will run the hospital, are supposed to get trained by CDC.

Right now, she tells Morning Edition's Steve Inskeep, only eight of the 65 people needed are there.

"Quite a number of [officers] are being delayed for all sorts of reasons," she says. "I'm told not all of them have passports, they have to get all the vaccinations that you need to work in West Africa — so they're not scheduled to get this training for another two weeks."

And this round of training is just the preliminary three-day course. "There's more training to come," she says.

At this rate, the earliest the hospital can open its doors for business is possibly around the end of October — about seven weeks after the hospital was promised.

"Maybe that is a reasonable amount of time to staff up a hospital from scratch," Aizenman says, "but reasonable amounts of time are a luxury that we don't really have in this outbreak."

The 17 other treatment units that Obama promised are also under construction, though Beaubien reports that the U.S. military expects those to be fully operational in 60 to 90 days.

Our photo gallery checks in on the progress of these projects.

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