The Vanuatu Ministry of Health, in August this year, established a national IPC coordination unit and endorsed the formal set up of a National Infection, Prevention, and Control (IPC) Committee to strengthen the country’s response to the issues faced during the current COVID-19 pandemic and future outbreaks of infectious diseases.
The newly established IPC committee includes it’s terms of reference that is chaired by the Director Curative and Hospital Service and other IPC developments such as the endorsement of the 1st national IPC workplan, the finalization of the national IPC Guidelines and formalized positions of IPC officers in the Vila Central Hospital and Provincial Hospitals.
The Pacific Community (SPC), in collaboration with the World Health Organization (WHO) Country Office in Vanuatu, convened this process in March 2020 in response to the COVID-19 pandemic IPC capacity assessment. An IPC assessment was conducted followed by IPC trainings which was attended by medical officers, midwives, and nurses.
The national IPC committee comprises of health professionals who are committed to contributing to the development of an effective national IPC program plan.
Bertha Tarileo, Technical Support for the IPC Program in Vanuatu says IPC is everyone’s responsibility. “Establishing a national IPC committee with representatives from every head of department within the ministry is important so that we all “speaks the same language” because IPC is critically important especially in the context of the COVID-19 pandemic.”
SPC’s Public Health Division continues to work extensively in the region supporting member countries and territories to strengthen IPC in health facilities through trainings, assessments and drafting of IPC guidelines and related resources. According to WHO, IPC is recognised as an essential requirement for COVID-19 preparedness and response.
Margaret Leong, SPC’s IPC Adviser said the establishment of a National IPC committee in Vanuatu is a milestone achievement. “We started this work in March last year followed by consultations and trainings. I must commend the willingness and work conducted by the Vanuatu Health Ministry in identifying and including IPC as an integral part of their health system. This will no doubt strengthen IPC measures beyond the COVID-19 pandemic including public health response when it comes to outbreaks of infectious diseases”.
From the onset of COVID-19, IPC measures have been applied to break the chain of infection in health care environments, these include accessibility to hand hygiene facilities, training, and education on how to correctly wear and remove personal protective equipment (PPE) and manage waste disposal, to name a few.
Public advisories also refer to IPC measures such as regularly washing hands with soap and water or use an alcohol-based hand rub, staying home when sick, avoid touching eyes, nose and mouth and practicing good respiratory hygiene, including covering mouth and nose with bent elbow or tissue when you cough, or sneeze then dispose of the used tissue immediately.
SPC has produced IPC resources such as videos and posters that is available on its website and continues to assist Pacific Island Country and Territories with IPC trainings and related technical support.
Evlyn Mani, Information and Communications Officer, Public Health Division, SPC | [email protected]