As the largest network of first responders in Kenya, the rescue.co team has been preparing ourselves, our members, and most importantly our first responder partners for the COVID-19 pandemic.
The Kenyan healthcare system, like that of most countries, was not prepared for a pandemic of this scale. According to the 2019 Global Health Security Index, Kenya ranked 55th in terms of preparedness with an index score of 47.1 out of 100. By comparison, the United States ranked 1st with a score of 83.5 followed by the UK with 77.9. Even the wealthiest countries on earth were not prepared — as evidenced by the headlines in both countries.
While Kenya ranked higher than most African countries, it is facing a major crisis due to the high density of its urban population and informal settlements in its cities. These factors make slowing the spread of the virus (or “flattening the curve”) more difficult. Read more about our predictive modelling for the virus in Kenya here.
At rescue.co, we have always prioritized the quality of our emergency response partners. To ensure our provider community is up to date on the latest protocols, we offer regular training sessions to our partners. As the novel coronavirus began expanding across the globe, we began to prepare our partner training plan.
On March 12, in partnership with MSF, we held our first internal training session to bring our Dispatch team up to speed on the latest information regarding COVID-19 and how it would impact our provider community. We developed our response plan and began acquiring the required Personal Protective Equipment (PPE) our partners would need. The day our final PPE package arrived, Kenya confirmed its first case of COVID-19. By the next day, we were responding to suspected COVID-19 cases. We sped up our training schedule and activated pandemic protocols.
Over the next week, we set up training sessions across Nairobi at various locations. Our goal was to make it as easy as possible for the largest number of people to attend, as well as limit the number of attendees per session so as to practice social distancing. The response and interest in the training sessions were far greater than we could have predicted.
Over the course of 5 days, we held 9 training sessions attended by 43 different organizations and 231 healthcare workers.
Many of the attending partners had been with us from the beginning, while others were brand new to our growing community.
The training curriculum consisted of two main sections: the History and Latest Case Definition of the Virus, followed by Protocols for Prevention, Treatment, PPE and Sanitization. For many of the attendees, this was the first chance they had to ask questions about the virus, its rapid spread, and the steps they would need to take to protect themselves. It was also a chance to address misconceptions and rumours spreading about the virus on social media.
One of the biggest challenges in fighting COVID-19 is that our understanding of the virus and its treatment is rapidly evolving. As more data and updated protocols become available, we will continue to distribute information to our partners. All rescue.co partners use our Flare technology platform, so we are distributing the training materials through the Flare mobile app that partner EMTs can access every day.
The donning and doffing (or putting on and taking off) of PPE is one of the critical lessons we seek to distribute amongst all partners and healthcare workers, especially ambulance staff on the front lines. They interact with potentially-infected patients multiple times per day, and for PPE to be effective, a specific sequence of steps must be taken when donning and doffing. Doing the steps in the wrong order could cause contamination and infection.
In preparing for the training, we identified who had adequate training and enough stock of recommended PPE. While most of the partners always stock standard ambulance PPE such as gloves, surgical masks, and disinfectants, not all were ready with N95 masks and disposable gowns, which are considered critical items by the WHO in keeping medical workers safe while fighting COVID-19, so we pooled together demand for PPE to secure the needed resources.
Because each item must be disposed of immediately following use, and scarcity of PPE in the market, the added cost for our partners is expected to be around 100USD or 10,000Ksh for every ambulance rescue or transfer (on top of regular rescue/transfer costs). To help offset these costs for our partners, we are collecting contributions toward Protective Equipment for emergency responders on our website. We welcome anybody who can to contribute. All contributions go directly toward PPE purchases that protect the healthcare workers on the frontlines of the fight against COVID-19.
Today we have trained almost all of our partners in Nairobi. And we are only getting started. We have about 30 partners throughout the country who we will be training in the coming days. This is becoming more urgent as cases begin to spread from Nairobi to other cities and counties. We are also expanding access to our training sessions so that any healthcare worker looking to learn best practices in prevention, safety, and PPE can attend free of charge.
We are looking for support to help provide this critical training to Kenya’s frontline healthcare workers. If you can, please consider gifting a set of PPE, a life-saving rescue, or a training session so that we can ensure Kenya’s heroes stay safe and healthy as they help us fight this deadly pandemic.