COVID-19 is a global health problem, but within the limited resource setting of LMIC it has the potential to have a catastrophic impact on healthcare providers and services. Massive expansion of critical care capacity, rapid recruitment of workforce and procurement of equipment and PPE which has been central to the response in many countries is simply impossible in systems which are resource poor in terms of staff, resources and finances from the outset. Continuing and diversifying our support for partner countries over this critical period is essential if we are to help them achieve the long-term aim of developing resilient health systems and increased health capacity for surgical services.
We have responded through altering our priority areas and the way in which we support LMIC partners. Although international travel restrictions currently prevent face-to-face volunteering that we traditionally use, we have used this as an opportunity to find new ways to work together.
How we are supporting our partnerships during the COVID-19 pandemic
We conducted a needs assessment of the concerns of anaesthesia providers in LMIC by speaking to those involved, accessing healthcare workers from five Sub-Saharan Africa countries. Using the results of this we have focused our efforts on their areas of greatest concern; reducing spread of infection, and wellbeing and psychological support.
- set up conversation groups specifically for COVID-19 support linked to folders of organised resources
- holding regular individual and group videoconferencing calls to discuss strategies and provide training on COVID-19 for our partners, and then have expanded this strategy to also incorporate the INSPIRE through Clinical Teaching faculty involving healthcare practitioners from Rwanda, Ethiopia, Uganda, Guyana, Kenya and Zambia.
- based on the above needs assessment and discussions, we have collaborated with the WFSA to build a framework of needs of LMIC anaesthesia providers, and to link up-to-date, reviewed, open access resources to each item, helping to sign-post our international partner groups to resources aimed as supporting them, their departments and policy-makers in their response to this pandemic.
- focusing our local efforts on PPE solutions and wellbeing and psychological support
- supporting advocacy efforts for clinical support, PPE procurement and training, developing new systems to respond to this pandemic and support needed for the academic programme
- using videoconferening and distance-methods to continue to support teaching for the physician anaesthesia training programmes
- researched methods and guidance from international organisations including WHO regarding PPE availability for contexts where these are difficult to procure, including homemade options and their effectiveness and cleaning.
- purchased and gained donations of internationally certified and homemade PPE and gained customs support enabling these to be given to overseas partners
- researched and developed resources in partnership with the WFSA concerning innovative, homemade PPE and guidance
- collaborating with local groups and traders to develop local production of PPE including face shields, surgical masks and surgical gowns
- on-going fundraising enabling the charity to continue to access the needed resources for this work
- developed resources relating to taking care of your own wellbeing and that of your colleagues during this pandemic. These have been made open-access on our website and on the WFSA COVID resources framework
- developed a section on the WFSA COVID resources framework dedicated specifically to wellbeing and psychological support of anaesthesia providers
- running a buddy system between Zambian anaesthetists and UK anaesthetists to ensure ongoing support