Public health student develops infection control program for Liberian hospital
A UNT Health Science Center public health student has developed a sustainable program to control infection and manage infectious waste for Phebe Hospital in Liberia, where one of that country’s first known cases of Ebola was diagnosed in 2014.
DrPH candidate Laura Phipps, MPH, CPH, RS, who graduates in May from the UNTHSC School of Public Health, traveled to Liberia as part of her major doctoral project.
That project included researching international guidelines for waste management systems in low-resource settings, developing written policies and procedures, and designing training programs for Phebe staff on appropriate waste management and infection control practices.
Phipps presented the first trainings on site for housekeeping and nursing staff, then developed a health care waste management plan and annotated training presentations for the hospital to continue the program on its own, updating as needed and ensuring that all new staff are oriented to the program as they are hired.
“When the Ebola outbreak brought international attention to Liberia and the Liberian health care system, agencies like the World Health Organization and Centers for Disease Control and Prevention sent teams to Phebe Hospital to establish response systems that are still in place today,” she said. “But over time, with staff changes and resources that are severely stretched, adherence to the systems decreased.”
Phebe is one of Liberia’s oldest medical centers, Phipps said.
“Approximately 100-150 outpatients are seen each weekday, with 75 to 100 patients typically treated each day in the emergency room,” she added. “The Phebe Hospital and School of Nursing compound is the site of not only the County Health Team, but also additional government and private health agencies and non-governmental organizations, making Phebe a vital part of Liberia’s health care delivery system, and making it crucial for the hospital to consistently follow a standardized protocol for infection control and safe waste management.”
Since Phebe Hospital has no human resources department, Phipps’ plan also addresses new employee training, continuing education processes and emergency event response.
“Liberia is now calling for hospitals to have standardized policies in writing for waste management, so it’s possible that the Phebe plan could be used as a template for other health care facilities in the region,” Phipps said.
Phipps’ interest in global public health sparked an earlier trip to Haiti, where she gained prior experience working with mobile clinic services in remote, underserved villages and provided maternal health trainings, in addition to conducting a community needs assessment to help inform future health care aid and initiatives for these populations.
“My experiences in Haiti helped me prepare for Liberia and really opened my eyes to the health and social issues in developing countries,” Phipps said. “What struck me as most significant was the resilience of both countries. They are among the poorest areas of the world, yet the people are remarkable in their ability to stay strong through difficulty and challenge.
“The value of going overseas and working in these countries is about being able to help, and it is life changing in the deeper understanding and concern that you gain by connecting with these people, seeing their lives and learning what they face in the context of health and survival.”
By Jan Jarvis The first study of a blood test to detect Alzheimer’s disease within a primary care setting soon will be conducted at UNT Health Science Center. The simple test could be a game-changer in the diagnosis of early Alzheimer’s. If successful, it would be possible to ide...Read more
Jul 12, 2018
By Jeff Carlton Charles Taylor, PharmD, who has presided over a number of critical academic milestones as Dean of the UNT System College of Pharmacy, will become Provost and Executive Vice President of Academic Affairs at UNT Health Science Center. Dr. Taylor said he was “excited, honore...Read more
Jul 11, 2018
The UNT Health Science Center, all clinics staffed by UNT Health physicians, and the Fitness Center will be closed on Wednesday, July 4, 2018, for the Independence Day holiday. The Lewis Library will be open, with abbreviated hours on July 3 and 4. Have a safe and healthy Independence Day!...Read more
Jul 3, 2018
By Alex Branch John Mills, DO, has led by example all his life. As a U.S. Army helicopter pilot during the Vietnam War, he flew reconnaissance missions behind enemy lines, accumulating 832 combat hours. As a physician, he practiced medicine in West Texas because he saw the scarce medic...Read more
Jul 2, 2018