Home / Stories / Physiotherapy / Responding to Respiratory Failure in Zambia
Back to stories

Responding to Respiratory Failure in Zambia

1 June 2022


COVID-19, a word that has been on our lips from December 2019 to date.

Coronavirus disease 2019 (COVID-19) is a communicable respiratory disease caused by the SARS-CoV-2 virus, a new strain of coronavirus that causes illness in humans.

In Zambia, COVID-19 has tested health facilities and healthcare professionals in many ways and quite truthfully it has tested me too. I work closely with the Global Anaesthesia Development Partnerships (GADP) as Project Coordinator for their in-country programme, the Zambia Anaesthesia Development Program (ZADP). ZADP, the flagship partnership with the GADP, has been in operation since 2012 supporting physician anaesthetist training and the development of safe surgical care. As the body of trained physician anaesthetists has grown, the partnership has adapted and grown to offer much more than the initial 4-year anaesthesia training program which it originally set out to deliver.

In Zambia, the management of COVID-19 patients required a new set of skills for healthcare personnel that they did not know they needed until ICUs became crippled, wards loaded and mortuaries overflowing. Respiratory failure in COVID-19 patients was heavy to handle for all.

Through THET’s COVID-19 Response Fund, ZADP developed the ‘Respiratory Failure Project’ which started in May 2021. In one aspect of this project, we identified a team of anesthetists and physiotherapists and sat down (physically and virtually) to discuss the main areas that were important for healthcare personnel to identify that a patient was experiencing COVID-19 symptoms, and how to manage and further escalate the cases where need be. We planned how best to teach this to large numbers of healthcare workers and subsequently developed plans for open-access, short training videos.

Once the video shooting was complete, we worked virtually with our GADP colleagues in the UK to collate the video clips and add sub titles. Great video editing skills of team members were used.

Three videos were published in December 2021. All videos were shared via our database of anaesthetists in Zambia and have received over 5,000 views to date.  Feedback comments have included “very helpful” with many “looking forward to having formal training or orientation”.

The project has been a success in part based on the viewership, response and feedback. I do find that repeated training needs to be of priority for healthcare professionals and not only amidst a pandemic as this is obviously reactive.

Healthcare professionals need training opportunities to regularly sharpen their skills in all areas so they are ready when faced with frontline duties of such a nature again.

Videos can be viewed on the GADP YouTube channel.


Gwendoline Gonya Williams is project coordinator and administrative consultant for the Global Anaesthesia Development Partnerships’ (GADP) Zambian leg; the Zambia Anaesthesia Development Programme (ZADP) and the Society of Anaesthetists of Zambia (SAZ) respectively. She recently presented at the GADP virtual conference 2021 on the successful ZADP ‘PPE distribution project’ she recently completed on behalf of GADP.


Leave a comment

Your email address will not be published.