Dominica takes steps to prevent and control health care associated infections

Dominica is taking action to prevent health care- associated infections at health facilities on the island and to reduce the costs associated with preventable infection.

Healthcare-associated infections are defined by the World Health Organization (WHO) as infections occurring in a patient during the process of care in a hospital or other health care facilities which are not present or incubating at the time of admission.

On Tuesday April 23rd, the Ministry of Health in collaboration with the Pan American Health Organization (PAHO) began a three- day regional workshop on the Surveillance of Healthcare- Associated Infections.

The workshop, which is being held at the Garraway Hotel in Roseau, has attracted participants from countries across the region and is the first such workshop of its kind to be held in the O.E.C.S.

Dominica’s Health Minister Hon. Julius Timothy in addressing an opening ceremony to start the workshop highlighted that young babies as well as cancer and diabetic patients are at the highest risk of getting health care associated infections.

According to the Minister “Healthcare -associated infections can affect any patient and can occur in any type of health care facility but the highest risk is for young babies especially pre-mature babies in the first month of life, patients admitted into intensive care and those who are immune compromised such as cancer patients, patients with diabetes, patients taking medications that suppress the immune system and patients with HIV”.

World Health Organization (WHO) Statistics reveal Healthcare associated infections are the most common complications during health care delivery and can lead to extended hospital stays, long-term disability, anti-microbial resistance, increased financial burden for health systems, patients and families and unnecessary deaths.

The Island’s health minister told those attending Tuesday’s workshop that healthcare- associated infections is a growing concern not only in Dominica but the wider region, and must be addressed with a level of urgency.

“The ongoing occurrence of healthcare-associated infections and recurrent outbreaks in healthcare settings are important signals that there is need to focus on the issue of infection prevention and control in order to improve patient safety” stated Minister Timothy.

The Minister further pointed out that in Dominica these infections represent a challenge which requires immediate, strong and sustained attention.

Meanwhile the island’s Chief Medical Officer Dr. David Johnson said this latest initiative by Dominica’s health Ministry to prevent healthcare associated infections is in keeping with new International Health Regulations (IHR).

He said “Quite apart from our obligations under the International Health Regulations of 2005, we all have a responsibility to improve the systems that we have in place in minimizing healthcare- associated infections which affect our patients under our care and to a lesser extent our own healthcare providers.”

Dr. Johnson has suggested stronger institutional commitment to achieving significant behavioral changes as the country moves forward in strengthening its surveillance systems.

PAHO’s Regional advisor on health surveillance and Disease Prevention Thais dos Santos is one of the individuals in Dominica providing support to the workshop.

She noted that the key objective of this week’s training include strengthening the island’s surveillance systems for healthcare associated infections.

“We would do that by presenting and discussing the main methodologies of surveillance of healthcare-associated infections and how to analyze that data, she explained”.

The Regional Advisor from PAHO indicated that this week’s training would be participatory.

“There would be some presentations but many exercises, a lot of time for discussions” she said.

To compliment the expertise of Thais dos S antos, the Pan American Health Organization (PAHO) has provided a team of international professionals to facilitate this week’s workshop.

The facilitators include Dr.Valeska Stempliuk- PAHO/WHO Infection Control Advisor, Lic Jorge Matheu- PAHO/WHO Anti-Microbial Resistance Surveillance Specialist and Mrs. Silvia Acosta-Gnass- Director of Infection Prevention and Control, of Riverside County Regional Medical Center.

Participants at the workshop come from islands including Antigua and Barbuda, Barbados, Grenada, St.Lucia, St.Vincent and the Grenadines, The United States, Uruguay and host country Dominica.

The workshop will come to an end on Friday.