Suva, Fiji – An Emergency Medical Team (EMT) Country Preparedness Workshop began today at Pacific Harbour aimed in providing an opportunity for key country health and emergency service leaders to engage collectively and further strengthen national capacity to respond to disaster emergencies and outbreaks including events that require international Emergency teams.

The Ministry of Health and Medical Services with support from the World Health Organization is conducting an Emergency Medical Team (EMT) Country Preparedness Workshop. This is part of the commitment towards disaster preparedness, and experience in deploying national rapid response teams and accepting elements of the new global health emergency workforce (Emergency Medical Teams (EMTs), Global Outbreak Alert and Response Network (GOARN) The Government and Ministry of Health & Medical Services accepted a WHO proposal to run a GHEW workshop in late October 2016 to expand its capacity to respond and coordinate responses to emergencies in future.

The Fiji Ministry of Health and Medical Services (MoHMS) has created a technical working group (TWG) to manage the project and in particular the development of national EMTs and public health rapid response teams and improve the mechanisms for identifying needs, requesting and coordinating international assistance using the EMT coordination framework and access to expert groups such as GOARN. The Fiji EMT is known as FEMAT (Fiji Emergency Medical Assistance Team).

The workshop aims to help Fiji Islands national health response system better manage deployments for national clinical and public health teams to areas of need during outbreaks and disasters. It further is aimed to understand what the World Health Organization and partners support to national response efforts, how to activate and access teams and experts from international EMTs and GOARN. The workshop will be able to match country level risks and gaps with international EMT capacities as well help develop national response standard operating procedures (SOPs) at every stage of the response cycle to incorporate national and international EMT capacities.

The Deputy Secretary Public Health, Dr. Eric Rafai opening the workshop said that this training is aimed at bringing together a group of health professionals with supporting Ministries and partners to prepare for emergency health care specifically for disaster affected populations. He further reminded the participants that the Pacific was just a few days away from the next cyclone season and that this preparedness workshop was timely to revisit our collective effort for emergency medical responses to disaster and emergency scenarios.

Mr. Sean Casey, the Health Cluster Coordinator of WHO, Suva also spoke and pledged the support of the WHO Suva Office towards the EMT Pacific Initiative. He assured the participants WHO support in emergency preparedness and response capacity in the health sector.

The first day had participants from Ministry of Health & Medical Service, representatives from the Red Cross, National Disaster Management Office, Ministry of Foreign Affairs, Representatives from the RFMF, Navy, Police and National Fire Authority, a representative from Fiji National University, the representatives from Volunteer First Responder and UN agencies.

The workshop is facilitated by WHO EMT Secretariat Team from Geneva, WHO Manila Office and WHO Suva with guest’s speakers also from the Australian Medical Assistance Team (AusMAT) and the New Zealand Assistance Team (NZMAT) teams. The EMT Pacific initiative is supported through the World Health Organization through the Australian Department of Foreign Affairs support. The workshop ends on Thursday.

Locally-trained specialists deliver emergency care beyond the walls of the hospital

Emergency care at CWM Hospital is provided by a highly skilled team of expert doctors and nurses. They include specialists in emergency medicine – doctors who have completed a four-year Master’s degree in Emergency Medicine at the Fiji National University.
The FNU Masters programme was developed under the guidance of Dr Anne Creaton, an emergency physician from Australia. It is now run by Dr Dennis Lee, who trained in Emergency Medicine in Papua New Guinea with support by visiting specialists from Australia, New Zealand, UK and USA. The first six doctors graduated from the FNU Masters programme in 2016.
Emergencies don’t just happen in our capital city however so the team at CWM Hospital also offers support, advice and training for staff in smaller health facilities around the country. The following case, which took place recently, is not unusual and illustrates how effective teamwork can be.
Josaia (not his real name) is 56 years old. At home one evening he experienced chest pain. The pain gradually eased but in the middle of the night it suddenly got worse again. He felt his heart racing and he was sweating heavily. He rushed to Nausori Health and was assessed by the Medical Officer on duty who found he was critically unwell with a dangerously high heart rate and abnormal heartbeat.
The Medical Officer immediately called the Emergency Department at CWM Hospital for advice and was told that Josaia required cardioversion, a procedure where electrical energy is applied to the heart to return its rhythm to normal. The staff at Nausori were not expert at the procedure but Dr Deepak Sharma, the emergency medicine specialist at CWM Hospital was able to guide them through what was required. The staff at Nausori then explained the procedure to the Josaia and his wife and Dr Sharma remained on the phone to provide continuous support while it was carried out.
The procedure was a success and Josaia’s condition stabilised while he was at Nausori Health Centre. Dr Sharma then sent one of the emergency team to bring the patient back to CWM Hospital by ambulance but when he arrived it became apparent that he was having a heart attack. He was treated with a special clot busting drug after which his condition stabilised and he was admitted to the coronary care unit.
Josaia remains well and was able to leave hospital after a couple of days. His experience is a good illustration of how our locally-trained emergency medicine specialists, their colleagues in CWM Hospital and doctors and nurses elsewhere in the system are working together and using their skills to save lives every day.