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AmeriCares Keeps Hospital Workers Safe on the Job in Tanzania

  • March 28, 2011

Nursing Officer Taus Kajwangya moves easily among the wards of the Bugando Medical Centre in Tanzania, chatting with patients and pitching in to roll bandages or start an intravenous line.  It’s all part of a nurse’s job, but Taus has learned some other very important skills, thanks to the Health Worker Safety Initiative funded by AmeriCares.

Launched in 2008 at the Clinton Global Initiative, this $3.6 million program was funded by AmeriCares with major support from medical technology company BD (Becton, Dickinson and Company) to establish the Center of Excellence in Health Care Worker Safety at the Bugando Medical Centre.  The three-year program is training 2,000 health care workers on how to protect themselves from infection while they care for the more than 200,000 patients a year at this 900-bed teaching hospital.

Preventing the spread of infection or contamination is particularly important for health workers in developing countries.  For example, these health care providers can experience an average of four needle sticks per year, putting them at a greater risk of contracting life-threatening diseases. The Health Worker Safety program focuses on safe medical practices, general hygiene, hospital sanitation methods and appropriate disposal of hazardous waste. 

In addition, a vaccination campaign for hepatitis B (with vaccine supplied by Merck & Co., Inc.) began last December for health workers at Bugando.   A total of 900 workers have been screened so far and 874 were given the first of three rounds of the hepatitis B vaccine.  The other 26 workers who were screened tested positive and will receive the necessary post-exposure treatment for their infection. 

Eventually the campaign will test all of Bugando’s 990 health workers for hepatitis B, which is a serious liver infection and a big concern for health workers who may come in contact with human blood through accidental needle sticks.

“Health care workers are the first line of defense in fighting infectious diseases and illnesses.  Training in safe medical practices and immunization against highly infectious diseases like hepatitis B are critical in safeguarding the health of medical workers,” said AmeriCares Medical Director Dr. Frank Bia, an expert in infectious diseases.  “In Tanzania, where 70% of all adults are infected with hepatitis B, vaccinating hospital workers to prevent the disease from spreading is a key component of the program.”

Another important safety aspect is teaching staff about general hygiene and supplying the hospital with antibacterial soap dispensers, which are not readily available in Africa.  AmeriCares recently provided soap dispensers donated by Shire Pharmaceuticals to Bugando so health workers can practice proper hygiene that will kill germs and help prevent spreading infections. 

A lab technician at Bugando follows important safety procedures when drawing a patient’s blood to prevent spreading infection to himself or others. Photo by David Snyder. All Rights Reserved.

Photo by David Snyder. All Rights Reserved.

A lab technician at Bugando follows important safety procedures when drawing a patient’s blood to prevent spreading infection to himself or others.

Other critical donations in this successful partnership effort come from BD (safety engineered medical devices and supplies), Cardinal Health (surgical masks, goggles and other supplies) and from Talecris Biotherapeutics, Inc. (two donations of a tetanus treatment).

In addition to Tanzania, AmeriCares sends infection prevention supplies to countries throughout Africa and around the world including HaitiGuatemalaMexico and Uzbekistan.  From safety needles and sharps disposal systems to latex gloves, these supplies from AmeriCares help keep health workers safe on the job, providing health care to people in desperate need.

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