4 June 2020
Zambia’s first laboratory confirmed case of the novel corona virus (COVID-19) infection was reported on March 18, 2020, since then cases have been exponentially rising to over a thousand within 3 months, among them front-line healthcare workers. In order to curb the spread of the disease, enhancing infection prevention and control (IPC), among other strategies, is key. This includes mainstreaming hand hygiene practice in both public and healthcare settings. To achieve this, effective hand hygiene products such as World Health Organisation (WHO) approved alcohol-based handrub need to be readily available with its supply sustainable and cost-effective, especially in hospital settings where front line healthcare workers are fighting the virus head on. The World Health Organisation (WHO) recommends alcohol-based handrub as a practical alternative to hand washing. This product is however not routinely available in Zambia’s public hospitals.
Via the Brighton-Lusaka Pharmacy Link (BLPL) partnership, funds from the CwPAMS project and collaborative work with Ndola Teaching Hospital (NCTH) have enabled University Teaching Hospital (UTH) in Lusaka to set-up an alcohol-based handrub facility which is run by trained pharmacists and was originally producing 40 litres of handrub per day but during the COVID-19 this has increased to 200 litres per day as per UTH requirements to fight COVID -19.
Our project now seeks to further enhance IPC practice through capacity-building of additional Zambian public tertiary hospitals to locally produce alcohol-based handrub for preventing COVID-19.
The three hospitals initially targeted are: Livingstone Central Hospital (LCH) in Southern Province, Kitwe Central Hospital (KCH) on the Copperbelt Province, and Levy Mwanawasa University Teaching Hospital (LMUTH) in Lusaka Province. These public tertiary hospitals have trained pharmacists who are able to manufacture handrub but the required equipment and materials are lacking. With support from the Health Worker Action Fund (HWAF) through the Tropical Health Education Trust (THET), local capacity-building, skills transfer and quality monitoring will be facilitated by Pharmacist-led teams from NCTH and the UTH who, have a proven track record of working together in capacity-building of health workers in IPC interventions.
Partnerships of our nature can close the IPC knowledge and facilities gap and through capacity-building and skills sharing can provide a sustainable contribution to tackling COVID-19 in Zambia. Our latest goal of the BLPL partnership is to ensure all the 5 tertiary public hospitals in Zambia have well-established, effective and sustainable IPC programmes, including facilities to produce WHO-recommended alcohol-based handrub in-house. Through local sharing of best IPC practices, LMUTH, LCH and KTH are keen to learn from and adapt similar capacity that NCTH and UTH have developed to enhance IPC practice. We look forward to reporting positive outcomes and lessons learnt from this project in the near future.
Zambian pharmacists receiving training in manufacturing WHO formula alcohol hand rub.
Zambian pharmacists manufacturing WHO formula alcohol hand rub.