MSF's Belgium operational centre (MSFB) has been working in “Ebola” settings for many years… almost 20… so they have an enormous amount of knowledge to on safe behavior, infection control and patient management. They recently developed a training course “to ensure staff has a sufficient knowledge of the disease and its transmission routes and are able to adapt a safe behavior and work efficiently in a well-designed Ebola Management Center (EMC).”
The goal is to broaden the number of people knowledgeable about Ebola to help increase the HR resources in the field managing the outbreak. The training is two full days and participants vary from healthcare professionals and water/sanitation specialists from MSF to representatives from other NGOs that are also working in the Ebola context (or hope to in the future). MSFB has set up an area at their training compound that resembles the layout of an EMC to help us to understand the traffic flow (clean to dirty, etc) and practice various activities.
Ebola training in Brussels © Kimberly Larkins
The agenda for the training ranged from didactic lectures (disease, epidemic management, the set up for Ebola Management Centers, etc) to practical experience (correctly getting into the layers of Personal Protective Equipment (PPE) and safely getting out of them, how to clean contaminated areas, how to move a patient, etc). We used the training EMC to do exercises such as helping a patient from the ambulance, cleaning a patient, removing a dead body, and cleaning up body fluids… all while dressed in PPE. Needless to say it was a great way to learn since there was no risk.
While I was not particularly nervous about working in the context of Ebola, I was definitely interested in learning more about how I can protect myself and others from exposure. Attending this training was very important to me as I hoped it would answer my many questions and arm me with the information I needed to be able to focus on my work rather than my environment.
Knowing this training was designed and taught by those who have 20 years of experience gave me confidence that it would be valuable. Additionally, numerous staff just returning from Ebola missions in Liberia, Sierra Leone, and Guinea helped us with the practical exercises, bringing a real sense of reality to the seriousness of the work we are doing. And based on their stories, there is no doubt of the seriousness and importance of our work.
PHOTO: Me in my personal protective equipment while training in Brussels © Kimberly Larkins