Infection Control and Prevention being addressed at top level

Wednesday 22 December, 2021

WHO -Clinical Management/IPC Lead Dr Priya T Balasubramaniam speaking during the closing of the IPC course at Holiday Inn on Friday.

INFECTION Prevention and Control (IPC) is basically all activities in health care facilities that are done to protect health care workers, patients and care-givers from acquiring infections.

It is basic standard that should be present in all health facilities and it is the cornerstone in the COVID-19 response.

IPC practices in PNG had been largely lacking in the past 10 years, and  leading up to the advent of COVID-19.

But there is now an IPC policy put together and endorsed and will be launched in the near future that will give IPC the attention it deserves.

 The policy will ensure there is IPC structure in the provincial health facilities and that there are IPC focal points and IPC practices at all levels of health facilities.

Dr Priya Balasubramaniam, WHO COVID-19 clinical management/IPC Lead, said COVID-19 has brought to the fore deficiencies in the health system,  not just in PNG but also all over the world, and in PNG one of the areas that can be improved upon is IPC.

 “The lack of IPC has led to large numbers of  health workers getting infected with COVID-19,’’ she said.

“The resources from COVID-19 has given us the opportunity  to re-focus the need for strong IPC program in-country.’’

An IPC strategy and plan has been  put in place and an IP course run last week is one of the starting points of the strategy. This plan will incorporate the training of IPC officers and create a pool of Master Trainers, the creation of IPC training resources in all levels of health facility and IPC assessments and identification of IPC gaps.

 “With the identification of these gaps we hope to work with all our partners in-country in overcoming these gaps,’’ she said.

 “We hope that with the information and knowledge gained, we can work together to strengthen IPC capacity in the county.’’

The first IPC course run last week was attended  by 18 IPC focal points from 16 provinces. These people will take the programme forward nationally and in their provinces.

WHO Acting Officer-in-Charge Mr  Eric Salenga  congratulated the participants for

completing the first National Training of Trainers for Infection Prevention and Control.

“Infection Prevention and Control is an absolute fundamental basics of safe and quality healthcare,’’ Mr Salenga said.

“It is relevant to every health worker and patient, at every health care interaction. Unfortunately, IPC has not received optimal attention in the past when compared to other public health programs and interventions. We know that inadequate IPC causes harm and can kill. Without effective IPC it is impossible to achieve quality health care delivery.

“The COVID-19 pandemic has given us the opportunity to address IPC and give it the attention it deserves.’’

He said in addition, there are other aspects of IPC being looked into, particularly health facility assessments and identification of gaps.

The findings will enable the National Department of Health and its partners to address the issues and concerns.

“There needs to be strong IPC presence and practices within PHAs and all health facilities,’’ he said.

“This is the only way we can ensure  health care workers, patients and caregivers are kept safe in our health facilities. This is particularly important during the COVID-19 pandemic where there have been many health workers infected and some have even lost their lives.

“With proper IPC practices, health workers can greatly mitigate the risks they face in taking care of COVID-19 patients.’’

The training was facilitated by WHO IPC consultant Professor Chedly Azzouz and WHO-Clinical Management/IPC  Lead Dr Priya T Balasubramaniam.

In his closing remarks, Deputy Secretary, National Health Services Standards, Ken Wai, said although many people died due to COVID-19, it had also been a blessing as it has opened the eyes  of the Government to see how weak the health system was in responding to a pandemic and has allocated 11.3 per cent of next year’s National Government budget to health sector to address some of the problems.

 “This slice is a big increase from the previous allocation which was only 3.9 per cent of the government budget.”

He said “In the last 10 years, we’ve not been visiting the provinces. This time, we will come” and visit the hospitals and ensure they are running well, including IPC is part and parcel of the hospitals.

“Infection is high not in a rubbish bin, but in health facilities. We ’sterilize’ a patient so when she goes back to the society she is not a threat to the community,’’  he said.

“IPC is extremely important. We cannot compromise IPC.’’

Nursing sister from Goroka General Hospital Lynette Babah thanked the organisers of the training, saying in health facilities IPC was done by mostly nurses and individuals out of passion and was glad that it is finally being given the attention it deserves.

Goroka General Hospital nursing sister Lynette Babah is pictured receiving her certificate for completing the short IPC course from National Department of Health Deputy Secretary for National Health Services Standards Mr Ken Wai. Standing with him (from  left to right) are: WHO IPC consultant Professor Chedly Azzouz;  WHO-Clinical Management/IPC  Lead Dr Priya T Balasubramaniam and WHO Officer-in-Charge Mr Eric Salenga

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