Day of Epidemic Preparedness

In December 2020, the United Nations designated 27 December as the International Day of Epidemic Preparedness.

This is to highlight the importance of the prevention of, preparedness for and partnership against epidemics.

The COVID-19 pandemic stretched health systems globally, and for resource-challenged countries such as Papua New Guinea, even more so.

For ANGAU Memorial Provincial Hospital, the positives of enduring the global pandemic were the opportunity to adapt and learn, collaborate with other institutions, and be supported by neighbours such as Australia.

Australian midwives have supported their PNG peers as part of the COVID Clinical Support (CCS) project, an initiative of the PNG-Australia Partnership. Midwife mentor, Lois Berry, conducted trainings on the management of COVID positive women within the birthing area.

Clinical Supervisor - Obstetrics and Gynaecology, Sister Junelyn Norman and her team attended various CCS trainings and incorporate COVID-safe practices into their daily work.

“In our new birthing area, we allocated rooms for positive COVID patients. And we allocated a room for the staff to wash before going home,” said Sr Norman.

“The experience of looking after COVID in the Birthing (ward) made us become well-versed with how we can take care of them when they are in the Birthing and Postnatal wards.”

Despite resource constraints at the start, partner support helped the hospital manage the new virus as it swept across the world, according to Doctor Steven James, Acting Director – Curative Health Services, Morobe Provincial Health Authority.

“The Australian Medical Assistance Team through the Department of Foreign Affairs & Trade and a lot of our partners, they helped us to really look into how we can structure ourselves in terms of, having Standard Operating Procedures outlined, reviewed, and then demarcating where and how we should look at isolating and treatment,” said Dr James.

“They provided a huge support in terms of equipment and consumables such as drugs that made it a bit easier for us to distribute and send out to our districts.

“They were also able to help us to set up the sports stadium, which we used as a COVID facility. We isolated COVID cases there and we tried to maintain continuity in services within the hospital and taking into consideration those cases like that required surgery but were COVID positive.

“It was a big wake up call for us within the health industry to have mechanisms set in place. In the event we encounter similar sort of pandemics, we've gone through it, and we can set ourselves accordingly to address and mitigate, and to contain accordingly.”

The hospital knows the importance of being ready for another surge or a new pandemic, with reviews of frameworks done, and new processes in place.

Dr James acknowledged that a lot of the work was done by the public health team, especially in neighbouring clinics, districts and rural settings.

New buildings and a re-designed layout for the ANGAU Hospital Redevelopment were also beneficial.

Press release