The World Health Organisation (WHO), Africa Regional office, has trained 22 health workers to battle and manage patients with Severe Acute Respiratory Infections (SARIs) Associated with Coronavirus (COVID-19).
WHO, in a statement posted on its website said the beneficiaries were from 11 Africa countries, including Nigeria.
Dr Temidayo Fawole of Nigeria Centre of Disease Control (NCDC) was among the 22 health workers that attended the training on managing and treating COVID-19 patients.
Especially, as the country reported on February 27 its first confirmed case of novel coronavirus, which was also the first case in Sub-Saharan Africa.
Fawole, before the training commenced on the February 28, briefied her deputy and team at the NCDC on phone, where she is the national case management lead.
She said that NCDC team is preparing to make the nearly 700 kilometres trip to Lagos to help manage the coronavirus patient, an Italian who works in Nigeria that recently returned from Italy.
“Another was making their way to Ogun State, where the patient had first been screened and isolated, to trace his movements and identify anyone he may have been in contact with.
“Nigeria has spent the better part of the past month preparing for just this eventuality, Fawole explained.
She said the country has in place a multi-sectoral, NCDC-led Coronavirus Preparedness Group, which met regularly.
“A pre-incident action plan has been developed and rolled out, as had been protocols and guidelines for surveillance, infection prevention and control, and the treatment of patients.
“Three labs have been readied to test for COVID-19, Isolation and treatment centres in four priority states where there are international airports and have been assessed, with upgrade planned where necessary’’.
She said dedicated staff have also been recruited and trained to work in those centres.
“The emphasis of this training was really on clinical management, and it was not just theoretical but we also worked through scenarios.
“It included an overview of the entire management of patients, from the transfer of patient from the point of entry, to treatment and even discharge,’’ Fawole added.
She said to ensure that the support provided by WHO addressed areas of potential weakness for member states, an extensive survey was conducted at the end of January 2020.
“Patient treatment – also known as case management – emerged as an area of particular concern’’.
Also according to Dr Zabulon Yoti, Acting Director of the Health Emergencies Programme in the WHO Regional Office for Africa said case management is an area in which the region is still struggling.
He spoke at the official opening of the WHO Critical Care Training on the Clinical Management of Patients with Severe Acute Respiratory Infections (SARIs) Associated with COVID-19, in Brazzaville from February 26-28.
Also speaking, Dr Janet Diaz, unit head of clinical care in the WHO Health Emergencies Programme at the global headquarters, and one of the facilitators on the programme urged countries to prepare for the virus.
“For countries that are preparing now, I think you have to focus on the basics of any response to an infectious respiratory pathogen”.
Prof. Ghania Brahimi of the Beni Messous University Hospital says countries like Algeria have been applying measures for some time now.
Algeria has been using similar treatment principles for H1N1 seasonal flu, said Brahimi, who was also attending the case management training in Brazzaville.
“The protocols are already in place. There are several training sessions, awareness training sessions that have been held throughout the hospital centres, in the east, west and centre of the country.
“So, I think that people are aware that we can deal with the epidemic and that we are prepared.”
Many participants found the training was helpful, and that all-too-often neglected aspects of emergency response were being addressed.
Ms Judith Komuhendo, a Psychiatric Nursing Assistant at the Mulago National Referral Hospital in Kampala, Uganda, said:
“One of the most important things that I have learnt here is that each patient has a different case management, depending on whether they have mild, severe or critical symptoms’’.
Dr Aschalew Worku, an internal medicine and pulmonary critical care specialist at Tikur Anbessa Specialised Hospital (TASH) in Addis Ababa, Ethiopia, added that “almost everything we learnt here was important.
“It was important starting from the initial point of care to the ICU, but I found the critical care part useful because it is my field and because it is usually neglected in epidemic management.”