The Ministry of Health and Medical Service’s (MHMS) is currently holding its five days’ COVID-19 emergency response training workshop in Honiara while the National Health Emergency Operations Centre (NEHOC) is on standby mode for activation at short notice.
The workshop aims to critically review, update and harmonize MHMS’s emergency Standard Operating Procedures (SOPs) and strengthen all other aspects of its COVID-19 preparedness and response.
The workshop stem from the recent COVID-19 exercise conducted by the MHMS during the 36 hours’ lockdown in which a number of gaps and shortfalls in MHMS’s COVID-19 preparedness and response were identified.
In opening the workshop, MHMS Permanent Secretary Mrs. Pauline McNeil highlighted that all issues including those pertaining to the SOPs of various health teams identified during the recent COVID-19 simulation exercise will be dealt with in the workshop. “The COVID-19 36 hours’ lockdown exercise has exposed some of our inadequacies and unraveled some of our weaknesses of our preparedness and response. However, this training provides us with an opportunity to improve on aspects of our efforts that were inadequate during the lockdown particularly in revisiting our SOPs and to ensure that these SOPs are practical and workable during real time scenario”.
The Permanent Secretary also added that since January MHMS had a total of 88 SOPs and during the lockdown almost 20 new scenarios have been injected into the SOPs thus work on harmonizing the SOPs across health teams and also to other sectors is a crucial task in this workshop”, stated Mrs. McNeil.
She encourages participants to engage in constructive discussion on how they can also align themselves to their SOPs and share responsibilities to avoid duplication of roles and ensure work effectiveness and efficiency within and between their teams. “With this I encourage all health team leaders to take ownership of your SOPs and drive its implementation with confidence and assertiveness”, said Mrs. McNeil.
Also delivering her brief remarks was the WHO Country Representative to Solomon Islands Dr. Sevil Huseynova who highlighted that Solomon Islands is among the only 12 countries in the world that still maintains a COVID-19 free status and so it is important to grasp this opportunity to build capacities of respondents to effectively and efficiently tackle any entry and outbreak of COVID-19.
Dr Huseynova also stated that we will never return to normal until we have a COVID-19 vaccine and as such, there must be a “new normal” by way of incorporating COVID-19 preventative measures in our daily lives and also on how we efficiently utilize our limited resources.
“We’ve had many infectious diseases that we fought and continue to fight that are still without vaccine, yet we know how to manage and protect ourselves and our communities from, therefore we must also do the same for COVID-19 in practicing COVID-19 preventative measures as the “new normal”.
In saying this, Dr Sevil further highlighted the need to redefine accountability for health, where individual health should be considered as a public good. “Greater attention is required for community engagement, health promotion and public health prevention to focus at each individual in our communities to keep them healthier for a greater good, including the continuity of gains made in immunization, maternal and child care, malaria & tuberculosis elimination efforts, and non-communicable diseases”.
“We must also consider this “new normal” in public health planning which may involve how we can efficiently use our very limited resources to maximize gains as COVID-19 may present a situation of lower economic income for both the state and households leading to less monetary contributions to the health sector which in turn can lead to a deteriorating state of public health, with more out-of-pocket spending by households”, stated Dr Huseynova.
Dr Sevil concluded by reassuring WHO’s commitment towards supporting Solomon Islands in its fight against COVID-19.
The Permanent Secretary thanked the ongoing efforts of every health workers and support staff in their commitment and dedication towards the fight against COVID-19 and MHMS partners for the ongoing support.
Also in attendance were representatives from other sectors including officials from National Disaster Operations Centre, development partners and other points of entry agencies.