Health care-associated infections, or infections acquired in health-care settings, are the most frequent adverse event in health-care delivery worldwide. In primary health care settings, particularly those with limited resources, factors such as poor infrastructure, insufficient equipment, understaffing, poor knowledge and application of basic infection control measures, inadequate waste disposal methods, and absence of local and national guidelines and policies all contribute to the burden health care-associated infections. Ensuring that proper infection prevention and waste management guidelines are in place and being followed is critical to protecting the health of patients and health care staff alike.
In Iraq, the USAID Primary Health Care Project in Iraq (PHCPI) is assisting the Ministry of Health (MOH) to improve the quality of primary health care services throughout the country. In collaboration with the MOH, the project developed an infection prevention and control (IPC) guideline for use in primary health care settings. Using MOH trainers, PHCPI is rolling out this guideline to health care staff from 360 clinics targeted by the project throughout all 18 provinces of Iraq.
One clinic that received this IPC training is the Al-Mansour PHCC in Baghdad. Prior to the introduction of the guideline, proper infection prevention and waste management systems were not being applied at the clinic. Medical and non-medical waste were not separated and properly labeled, and staff did not understand the difference between the two.
Now, says Ebreaheem Ta’an, who is in charge of infection prevention for the clinic, the change is evident. “Things are much better in the clinic now,” he said, “People are now more aware about the principle of medical and non-medical waste, and are using the respective containers properly. Everyone is aware of the importance of healthy practices and the value of the new guidelines”. The clinic now has separate containers for medical and nonmedical waste, as well as special containers for sharp objects. Dr. Ta’an, who received IPC training from PHCPI and who has also trained others in his role as a certified MOH trainer, said that staff members found the training easy to complete, and that they now have a much better understanding of the importance of proper IPC practices. As a result, they are more mindful to follow the proper procedures in their daily work.