Development of a disinfection protocol for the public sector Emergency Medical Services in the eThekwini District of KwaZulu-Natal
Williams-Claassen, Natalee Jean
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Background In the Emergency Medical Services (EMS), paramedics play a vital role in the treatment of critically ill or injured patients, as they are often the first link or point of contact for the patient in the healthcare setting. They may therefore also play a vital role in the prevention and control of the transmission of communicable diseases, provided that proper infection control measures are in place. The objectives of the study There is presently no national policy on communicable diseases and infection control that is specifically designed for use in the South African prehospital environment. Given the paucity of research in the area, qualitative multiple case studies were conducted to develop an ambulance specific disinfection protocol and to evaluate its effectiveness in the public sector EMS in the eThekwini District of KwaZulu-Natal. Methodology The study comprised of three phases. In the first phase focus group discussions were conducted to identify the factors needed to develop a disinfection protocol. The study population consisted of both operational and management staff from the EMS under study. The first four focus groups consisted of eight to ten EMS operational staff each and the fifth focus group consisted of five EMS management staff. Thereafter, the information gathered was used in conjunction with internationally accepted guidelines to develop an ambulance specific disinfection protocol (Phase Two). The third phase entailed the implementation of the protocol at seven ambulance bases in the eThekwini health district and the evaluation of the protocol with the use of an open-ended questionnaire at two weeks and four weeks after implementation. A single ambulance crew and their immediate supervisor from each base were utilized in this phase. Conclusion and recommendations An ambulance specific disinfection protocol was developed and implemented in the EMS under study. During the development, implementation and evaluation of the protocol, many themes with regard to infection control in EMS were identified. These themes were used to better understand the present situation in EMS in relation to infection control and in the formulation of recommendations to assist in the improvement of the present situation. The researcher recommended that all EMS staff require training and education with regard to infection control and prevention. The development and implementation of a protocol and policy document for infection control specifically for EMS is required. There is a need for the deployment of more ambulances and the employment of more operational EMS staff together with the appointment of Infection Control Supervisors at all ambulance bases. Without adequate infrastructure needed to meet infection control and prevention requirements, there may be a serious risk to both staff and the patients they serve.