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Safe Hospitals: Protecting India’s Health Care Workers

  • April 26, 2013

“Because of prevention education, people know not to re-use needles. By vaccinating, we will be preventing transmission to or from somebody else.”Dr. Shobna BhatiaWhen Doctor Shobna Bhatia arrived at KEM Hospital, the largest municipal hospital and medical college in Mumbai, India, she set out on a mission to educate and vaccinate as many health workers as she could. Doctor Bhatia understood the many risks the staff of over 5,000 health workers faced without safety and infection prevention training, but many of her co-workers did not. She explained, “When I came to KEM seven to eight years ago, I found many workers were not vaccinated.  The staff did not understand how easy it is to transmit Hepatitis B.”The hospital, which serves the underprivileged virtually free of cost, did not have the personnel, medicine or medical supplies needed to create a comprehensive safety program. Shobna reached out to AmeriCares for help, and in August of 2012, AmeriCares India expanded its Health Worker Safety Initiative to KEM Hospital. AmeriCares India and the KEM gastroenterology department now work together to educate staff about the many dangers health workers face – from needle injuries to infectious waste exposure. In developing countries, a lack of medical supplies leaves health workers at a higher risk of contracting debilitating blood-borne diseases, including Hepatitis B. The partners aim to raise awareness about infection prevention and control practices to protect health workers at a hospital that cares for over 1.8 million patients a year.AmeriCares provides the funding for a health worker safety team to test, counsel and vaccinate health workers against Hepatitis B at the hospital. During the first 9 months of the initiative, AmeriCares India and KEM have been able to test more than 2,200 health workers for Hepatitis B and vaccinated nearly 400. A series of lectures helps educate health workers in best safety practices.

A life-saving culture of change

“By vaccinating, we will be preventing transmission to or from somebody else. Testing and vaccination are the most cost effective prevention against disease and complications of disease that can cost thousands of dollars to treat, and may not have a cure,” Shobna explained.The voluntary initiative at KEM Hospital is the second safety program in Mumbai. In 2010, AmeriCares India launched the Health Care Worker Safety Initiative at JagJivan Railway Hospital (JRH). When Phase I of the project ended in May of 2012, all 500 staff workers had been immunized against Hepatitis B. AmeriCares India was able to enhance the sustainability of the project by training almost 200 health workers from JRH and the Oncology Nurses Association of India to serve as experts in health worker safety at the 330-bed facility. The initiative serves as a model for Phase II at KEM hospital.Doctor Shobna and the KEM gastroenterology department continue to work with AmeriCares India to develop the life-saving initiative. “Once everyone is vaccinated or protected there’s a safety net for patients as well, preventing transmission from doctor to patient,” Doctor Bhatia added. “We will make it compulsory for all new entrants into the hospital staff—180 new students plus 30 new staff each year. Without AmeriCares this would be difficult or impossible.”In 2010 AmeriCares launched a similar initiative at Bugando Medical Centre in Tanzania. Learn more about the successful program here.Donate Now