Strengthening Health Services for COVID-19 Response in Kiribati


Ensuring there is continuity of essential health services while responding to increasing demands to prioritise and manage COVID-19 patients, requires extensive stakeholder networking, detailed planning, and coordination in countries with limited resources.

The Pacific Community (SPC) coordinates and works in collaboration with regional partners and donor agencies to support these PICTs and their needs.

A team of health experts from the Public Health Division is currently in Kiribati assisting the Ministry of Health and Medical Services in the areas of infection, prevention and control, laboratory, clinical services, biomedical engineering, coordination, and data management.

Dr Tekeua Uriam, Director Health Services at the Kiribati Ministry of Health & medical Services said they are grateful for SPC’ s response early on to the call for external assistance.  “During this COVID-19 outbreak we needed the most support in key areas of clinical, public health, laboratory, IPC and biomedical. We know that we are not alone in our combat against COVID-19. The work of SPC team on the ground contributes to our health systems strengthening and has boosted the local health team and frontliners’ capacity around COVID-19 work”.


Improving Laboratory Diagnostic Capacity

SPC’s Pacific Public Health Surveillance Network (PPHSN) Labnet Coordinator Mr Tebuka Toatu and Policy and planning adviser Dr Revite Kirition has been working alongside the Kiribati laboratory staff and the team from the Australian Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade (DFAT) to improve laboratory diagnostic capacity.

Tebuka shared that they have been busy ever since arriving, consulting with the team on the ground to determine areas requiring support.

“We used the monthly Regional SARS-CoV-2 Monitoring Tool that was developed by SPC and modify it as a daily monitoring tool for Kiribati to daily capture testing, consumption rate and quality performance of the result. We have been able to train the lab team.”

As of the 24th of February, the Kiribati lab team is using this tool to daily monitor the stock balances of cartridges, positivity rate and quality performance of GeneXpert tests.


Strengthening Infection, Prevention, and Control (IPC) Measures

IPC strategies are crucial to prevent the transmission of COVID-19 and are effective in breaking the chain of infection in healthcare and community settings.

SPC’s IPC Adviser Margaret Leong has been working alongside WHO’s IPC consultant – Louise Laurie and the Kiribati IPC officer, Toata Kaufusi. Margaret said that they carried out surveillance of the healthcare facilities to establish appropriate PPE donning and doffing sites in various healthcare facilities and the emergency department.

“Based on our surveillance, we provided education and training on hand hygiene and appropriate use of PPE for South and North Tarawa healthcare workers, cleaning staff and senior environmental health officers for the airport and seaport including the development of signs and posters to install at all healthcare facilities. All the activities we carried out was supported with the development of signs and posters and development of standard operating procedures in consultation with the local IPC focal point and staff”.


Clinical Services

SPC’s Clinical services Adviser Dr Lamour Hansell has been providing clinical support to the Kiribati clinical services team along with DFAT and WHO consultants.

“I have been part of daily ward rounds at the ICU iOtintaai COVID-19 Centre attending to COVID-19 patients. We conducted high fidelity simulation training with medical and nursing staff on the use of High Flow Nasal Cannula (HFNC) oxygen, how to intubate and perform CPR on a COVID-19 patient and updates on Advanced Cardiac Life Support (ACLS). The participation and discussions have been excellent and there is much confidence amongst health workers when providing health services to COVID-19 patients.”

SPC’s Biomedical Consultant Toci Katsuki is also in Kiribati servicing biomedical equipment. Working with the local biomedical team, they have been able to repair components of the fluoroscopy unit and aim to have it fully functional soon.


Strengthening Collaboration in Health

SPC remains committed to support PICTs with their COVID-19 preparedness and disaster response plans and fragile Pacific health infrastructures requires collaborative support.

SPC is a member of the Pacific Humanitarian Pathway on COVID-19 (PHP-C), which provides regional leadership, direction, and coordination to enable the provision of medical and humanitarian assistance from regional and international organisations in a timely, safe, effective, and equitable manner. The Public Health Division (PHD) is also a member of the World Health Organization (WHO)-led multi-agency Joint Incident Management Team (JIMT).

PHD is preparing to deploy more health experts to Tonga and Solomon Islands over the next few weeks.


For further information, please contact:
Evlyn Mani
, Communications Officer, Public Health Division, Pacific Community (SPC) | [email protected]

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