4 August 2020
The Zambian partnership within the Global Anaesthesia Development Project (GADP), the Zambia Anaesthesia Development Program (ZADP), began in 2012. Our aim is to support the provision of safe anaesthesia in low resource environments through training, quality improvement and research. With the Society of Anaesthetists of Zambia, we are working closely on a number of initiatives to improve the provision of safer anaesthesia in Zambia and equip graduates with the essential skills to become effective leaders in healthcare.
COVID-19 has had a significant impact on how we deliver our programme in Zambia, with the restrictions on travel meaning we had to remove our in-country volunteers. As a result of these challenging circumstances, we have rapidly evaluated the new needs and priorities of our partnership as they are emerging, and have worked together to find ways to best support them. By speaking one-to-one with our Zambian anaesthetist partners, we identified four key themes to their concerns relating to COVID-19; spread of infection, critical care capacity, need for a country-wide strategy, and wellbeing. Since these initial conversations, the impact of COVID-19 on medical education and anaesthetic training has also emerged as an important need.
Concerning spread of infection, the risk of hospital-acquired infection for staff and patients was a common worry and partners reported that procured personal protective equipment (PPE), including donations, were insufficient. The Zambian Ministry of Health has also highlighted “strengthening infection control measures”, including PPE for healthcare workers using procurement and support from partners, as a national priority. We ensure that our work aligns with the Zambian response by monitoring updates from the Zambia National Public Health Institute.
In collaboration with our Zambian partners, we made the decision that one area of focus should be PPE for anaesthesia providers. Anaesthesia providers are at high-risk from COVID-19 due to critical care work and exposure to airway procedures. Therefore, increasing access to PPE and training on its effective use is an important part of our joint working. Through this, we aim to reduce in-hospital spread of infection and protect anaesthetists’ physical health whilst they care for patients, including those with COVID-19.
With support from THET’s Health Worker Action Fund, we have been able to develop PPE packs for anaesthesia providers in Zambia, helping to ensure their protection and safety during the pandemic. This project will help to ensure that anaesthesia providers in Zambia are provided with PPE suitable for aerosol-generating procedures and are trained in their use and safest reuse practices where there are severe shortages. Through a combination of donations, procurement, collaborating with local NGOs to locally-produce PPE items and building local guidelines and training resources, we are working to provide every anaesthetist in Zambia with a PPE pack. We have also been able to work to increase the PPE we have sourced over and above our initial aims to be able to support other healthcare workers in theatres and critical care. These challenging circumstances have reinforced to us all the value of being responsive and constantly adapting the partnership. By continuing to work together and to use the strengths of our partnership, we have found ways to help to protect our anaesthesia providers. Support from the Health Worker Action fund has enabled us to reach so far with this project.
For more information, please visit: https://gadppartnerships.com/.
ZADP Administrator, Gwen Williams, collecting some of the locally-produced face shields.
An overview the partnership’s PPE packs.