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.