x Abu Dhabi, UAEFriday 19 January 2018

SKMC applies for local infection control chapter

Sheikh Khalifa Medical City has applied to become the region's centre for infectious disease control.

ABU DHABI // Sheikh Khalifa Medical City has applied to become the region's centre for infectious disease control. SKMC has contacted the Association for Professionals in Infection Control and Epidemiology (APIC) in the US in a bid to set up the association's first chapter outside the US. It said medical professionals from Saudi Arabia and Oman have already expressed interest in joining such a chapter.

"We want to have our own chapter here in Abu Dhabi, potentially for all the GCC," said Shamiso Fred, the infection control officer at SKMC. "This chapter will put all the professionals in infection control together." Mrs Fred, a nurse, said there had been no integration yet of hospitals' infection control systems. SKMC generally has several calls a day from hospitals seeking guidance on the proper way to control the spread of infections. Its officials have been asked to speak at hospitals on topics such as preventing blood contamination.

"We realised that there is a gap we want to bridge," Mrs Fred said. "The only way we can do this is if all the experts in infection control, all the hospitals ... come under one organisation. "Then we won't have variations, and you know, variation is the enemy of quality." Mrs Fred said 35 medical organisations had expressed interest in a local APIC centre, well over the 10 required. SKMC has launched a public campaign for its Infection Control Awareness Week to make people aware of the dangers of not washing their hands or spitting in public.

"It's OK to cough but you need to cover your mouth. If you feel like spitting, use a tissue," said Mrs Fred. Nurses from SKMC have been handing out health information in English, Arabic, Hindi and Urdu in malls. "It's very difficult to change a person's behaviour," Mrs Fred said. "Each and every culture will bring in a package of misunderstandings about hygiene. These packages need to be tackled bit by bit. That means we have to try to understand the cultures."

A spokeswoman for the APIC in Washington DC, Liz Garman, confirmed an Abu Dhabi chapter would be the first outside the US. The SKMC has also launched an e-mail address - infectioncontrol@skmc.gov.ae - where people can ask questions in any language. On the first day, it received 30 questions, ranging from ones about hand washing to whether a child with chickenpox should attend school. amcmeans@thenational.ae