Australia continues support to combat Solomon Islands’ dengue fever outbreak
AusAID Director General Peter Baxter visited Solomon Islands’ National Referral Hospital this week to meet the Australian medical team assisting local health authorities to combat a major outbreak of dengue fever.
Health officials estimate there have been more than 3,700 cases of suspected dengue since late January, putting significant strain on the country’s health resources.
‘This outbreak is putting huge pressure on local health authorities. The caseload of the National Referral Hospital’s emergency department has doubled from around 700 to 1,400 new patients each week,’ Mr Baxter said.
After a request from the Solomon Islands Government, Australia sent an initial assessment team to the country in early April. This was followed by a seven-person medical team which has been working with local medical authorities at the National Referral Hospital. The team included two doctors, two nurses, a team leader, lab technician and logistician.
New Zealand also sent a medical team of one doctor and one nurse to support the dengue response.
Mr Baxter said the teams have worked well together to treat patients, manage workloads and provide relief for exhausted local staff.
‘This support has helped the hospital to set up a triage system for dengue patients to relieve overcrowding. It also helped to introduce better patient management systems. As a result, waiting times for nurse assessments and doctor reviews have dropped significantly.
‘Clinical services such as elective surgery, ophthalmology and obstetrics and gynaecology outpatient clinics have also been reopened and local staff have been provided some respite.’
Undersecretary of Ministry of Health and Medical Services, Dr Tenneth Dalipanda, thanked Australia for the assistance to date.
‘The Australian and New Zealand medical teams have provided essential support to the National Referral Hospital, which has benefitted our staff and patients. We are taking on board the recommendations from the team to improve our emergency department operations.’
Mr Baxter also announced that Australia will provide an additional four-person medical team to support early recovery efforts, at the request of the Solomon Islands Government.
‘Over the next four weeks, the team will focus on integrating the dengue triage area back into the emergency department, and bringing the hospital back to normal operations,’ he said.
‘The four-person team will also help finalise a provincial disease outbreak emergency response plan and disaster management plan for the National Referral Hospital to build resilience for future humanitarian disasters and disease outbreaks.’
Mr Baxter congratulated the Ministry of Health and Medical Services for their effective implementation of their Dengue Response Plans.
‘The Ministry of Health and Medical Services has done a commendable job leading Solomon Islands’ response to the outbreak. This included coordinating other donors which are also responding to the outbreak, running a national clean-up campaign, establishing a surveillance unit, and deploying recently registered volunteer nurses to the National Referral Hospital.’