March 23, 2022

Improving healthcare associated infection surveillance in Pacific Island Countries

This article was first published by the Pacific Community.

A virtual training session on surgical site infection (SSI) surveillance to adopt a more standardised approach for definitions and methods for SSI surveillance was held on Thursday, 10 March, attended by six Pacific Island Countries and Territories (PICTs). Surgical site infections are the most frequent type of healthcare associated infections (HAI) in low- and middle- income countries. HAI surveillance is key in infection prevention and control (IPC) and is an important tool to identify problems and guide IPC activities and respond to healthcare facility needs.

The training was facilitated by the Pacific Community (SPC) in collaboration with technical expertise provided by the Doherty Institute, with funding support from the European Union. Obstetricians, IPC focal points, operating theatre and ward staff were part of this one-day training.

Dr Ulai Fidow from the Samoa Ministry of Health said this training has allowed them to focus on key result areas that requires poignant attention particularly when surgical site infection has been one area of focus for Samoa.

“This training has advised us on the type of data platform that we need to make quality control more robust. The learning objectives from the training has been particularly useful for our young clinicians and the classification will be helpful as it will allow everyone to be on the same page in terms of protocols and clinical guidelines.”

Margaret Leong, SPC’s IPC Adviser said this training will support countries by strengthening surveillance on surgical site infections by standardising definitions and methodologies and will improve IPC measures and ultimately reduce the risk of cross contaminations or infections.

Donna Cameron, facilitator for this training and the Infection Control Consultant at the Doherty Institute said this project will help with the implementation and ongoing support of at least two of the eight core components of IPC, which HAI surveillance and monitoring and audit of IPC practices with feedback.

“By providing standardised definitions and methods for SSI surveillance and hand hygiene auditing, SPC is facilitating the improvement of IPC programs in PICTs.”

The SSI surveillance training was successfully trailed at Lautoka Hospital in Fiji, commencing with data collection since 1 December 2021. Donna added that “By using standardised definitions and methods for SSI surveillance, data can be analysed and interventions to reduce infections appropriately targeted. It is also important to know if interventions implemented to reduce SSIs have achieved the desired outcome. Unless the data is collected, it cannot be accurately assessed to determine if the interventions have been successful.”

IPC is one of the eight pillars of the public health response to any public health disease threats such as the importation of COVID-19 virus and other infections and is an essential requirement for outbreak preparedness and response. Follow up on implementation will be carried out by SPC’s IPC advisor.