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Safe, Healthy Hospital Workers in Tanzania

  • April 10, 2014

Nurse manager Prisca Ringia has seen firsthand how best practices in safety and infection control have protected health workers and improved quality of care at Bugando Medical Centre in Tanzania, where she has worked for nearly 20 years.

“If an institution makes sure that the materials for safety precautions are there, you feel safe, and you are giving high quality care,” she explained.

Prisca is one of  nearly 900 health workers who have benefited from hepatitis B vaccinations, safety training and supplies provided through the Health Worker Safety Initiative, (HWSI) launched by AmeriCares in 2009.  Five years into the effort, the medical center has received a #1 ranking in infection prevention and control by the Tanzania Ministry of Health.

The initiative aims to protect the sparse and underequipped health care workforce in Tanzania, where infectious diseases pose major health risks.  And since health workers are so scarce throughout the country, the loss of one doctor or nurse due to illness means that thousands of people might not get the care they need.  

Before the HWSI was launched at Bugando Medical Centre, many hospital workers did not have consistent access to protective supplies, and many were not adequately trained on preventing the spread of hospital-related infections and injury. The hepatitis B immunizations are especially important: 70 percent of all adults in Tanzania have been infected with the disease, and access to vaccines is extremely limited.

Prisca, a married mother of three, emphasized that the benefits of the HWSI extend beyond the hospital community, by improving the lives of health workers’ families. “We are making sure that we are not creating harm to the community at large, and now I know I am not bringing infection to my family when I go home at night,” she said. 

In support of the initiative, AmeriCares delivered more than $1.6 million in training materials, safety-engineered devices, personal protective equipment and medications.  Throughout the three year program, more than 1,200 health workers were trained in best safety practices, including infection prevention and control, and electrical safety. 

Protecting Health Workers, Saving Lives

Bugando Medical Centre and AmeriCares also worked together to upgrade the hospital’s post-exposure prophylaxis (PEP) reporting system, which can save lives after an injury or needle stick, and the hospital’s inventory management, as they move from a handwritten system to a computerized system.

One of the greatest successes of the HWSI is the way that it has transformed the work environment for hospital staff. Since the project and the trainings began there have been less injuries and needle sticks, and when health workers are injured, they follow proper procedure and use PEP more strictly.  Health workers have also reported feeling safer and happier at work, along with a greater sense of workplace satisfaction as a result of the initiative. Health workers reported feeling proud to work at a facility where management places great value on staff well-being.

Expanding to Help More Health Workers

The partnership has helped Bugando Medical Centre, a teaching hospital staffed by 1,200 health workers who care for more than 240,000 patients each year, establish itself as a center of excellence in health worker safety.

The Tanzanian Ministry of Health and Social Welfare identified the hospital as a model for regional quality improvement teams.  Due to the success and overwhelming positive response from health workers like Prisca, AmeriCares has partnered with the medical center to expand the project to three regional hospitals located throughout located in Tanzania’s lake zone region:

Musoma Regional Referral Hospital (MRRH); a public health facility that provides referral health care services to 218 lower level health facilities, including 7 hospitals, 22 health centers and 189 dispensaries in the Mara region. The hospital serves a catchment area of 1,743,830 people, with a bed capacity of 300 and total occupancy rate of 75% by the end of 2013. The hospital is staffed with 366 health workers, falling short of the required 474 by 23%. 

Sengerema Designated District Hospital (SDDH) was founded in 1959 and is owned by the Catholic Diocese of Geita.  SDDH shares a public-private partnership with the government from which it receives necessary funding. The hospital provides both inpatient and outpatient services and acts as a referral hospital for primary health facilities for 8 health centers and 55 dispensaries. It has a bed capacity of 301 and a catchment population of 772,581. SDDH provides medical, surgical, pediatric, gynecology, obstetrics, eye care, dental care and primary health care services. 

Shinyanga Regional Referral Hospital is a government owned hospital with a 304 bed capacity that provides medical, surgical, pediatric, gynecological, obstetric, eye care, dental and primary health care services, serving a catchment area of 1,567,038 people.

Read more about the Health Worker Safety Initiative here.

Protecting Health Workers, Saving Lives Bugando Medical Centre, Tanzania

  • Ranked #1 in infection prevention and control by the Ministry of Health
  • 1,200+ health workers trained in safety practices
  • 900 health workers vaccinated against hepatitis B
  • 92% of health workers were trained in best practices for hospital safety and infection prevention – up from 28% prior to the project.
  • 100% of wards had post-exposure prophylaxis for HIV available.
  • 100% of wards had hand-washing facilities – up from 40% at the start of the project.
  • 100% of wards used safety sharps boxes.

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