Combating COVID-19 in the Pacific

How health service staff in the Pacific have mobilised to protect themselves and their communities from COVID-19, and what role Motivation Australia has played in helping them stay safe.

A man and a woman take a selfie. They are wearing facemasks and sat at a desk, socially distanced to work.

Normally the remoteness of Pacific Islands countries (PICs) is a barrier to achieving outcomes, especially in health. In contrary, in 2020, the remoteness of many Pacific Island nations, in conjunction with good planning, has helped the Western Pacific region to prevent large outbreaks of COVID-19 and become the most pandemic free place in the world.

Despite low or zero case numbers, countries across the Pacific region have been highly vigilant, outlaying preparatory measures to prevent the spread of the virus, knowing a large outbreak of COVID-19 would stretch the capacity of their respective health systems.

Reduced opportunity for travel has increased the need for remote communication between Motivation Australia, and our partners. Utilising a number of online communication tools, we have been in close contact throughout the year (2020).

Over the past two months Motivation Australia have provided direct COVID-19 planning and preparation assistance to the National Orthotics and Prosthetics Service in Papua New Guinea and the Rehabilitation Department at the National Referral Hospital (NRH) in the Solomon Islands

Assistance to the National Orthotics and Prosthetics Service, Papua New Guinea

In late July, COVID-19 case numbers in Papua New Guinea (PNG) began to rise, forcing the nation into a strict two-week lockdown.

Our partner, the National Orthotics and Prosthetics Service (NOPS), who have six clinics across PNG, were forced to work from home for two weeks and implement telehealth communication strategies with their clients.

During the two-week lockdown we provided NOPS with the funding to coordinate their telehealth program and assisted them to develop a COVID-19 safe workplace plan. The plan supported the team to reopen their service in Port Moresby, in a way that was safe for both the staff and their clients.

With funding assistance from the Australian Government through the Australian NGO Cooperation Program (ANCP) and the Government of Canada, Motivation Australia was able to support the purchase of a short-term supply of personal protective equipment (PPE) for NOPS staff to wear during their return to service delivery.

We are also in the process of procuring materials and equipment to produce a long-term supply of reusable face masks made using the service sewing machines at NOPS. These masks will be worn by staff, as well as distributed to clients and their families, helping to reduce the impact of environmental waste generated by single-use PPE.

NOPS officers at Port Moresby clinic waiting room, displaying their face masks and social distancing.

“It’s been good to see officers at work and carrying out safety measures amongst themselves and working with clients as well.”

Almah Kuambu, Technical Advisor, NOPS.

The NOPS staff have since returned to work and are back seeing clients.

Almah Kuambu (Technical Advisor at NOPS) says that their COVID-19 safe plan is working effectively, staff have been very committed in adopting the strategies implemented and that the funding to purchase PPE has been hugely beneficial.

We hope that NOPS are able to continue to safely provide much needed services to their clients and hope that the strategies implemented as part of the COVID-19 safe workplace plan help not only NOPS staff and client but everyone in PNG to stay healthy.

Assistance to the Rehabilitation Department, National Referral Hospital, Solomon Islands

Following on from our work with NOPS in PNG, the Rehabilitation Department at the National Referral Hospital (NRH) in the Solomon Islands requested our assistance to develop a COVID-19 safe workplace plan. Thankfully, we had started work on their workplace plan prior to the country’s first three active COVID-19 cases (all returned travellers in quarantine).

Motivation Australia is working closely with the Rehabilitation Department to finalise their COVID-19 safe workplace plan including funding the procurement of single-use PPE for their staff. We will continue to liaise and plan with the Rehabilitation Department as the Solomon Islands fight to remain COVID-19 free within their community, and will keep you updated on the progress of these efforts.

COVID-19 resources

As part of our efforts to provide accurate information regarding the prevention and spread of COVID-19, Motivation Australia has posted a wide range of links to specific government advice for PICs. Resources from the World Health Organization and templates adapted from the Victorian Government for COVID-19 safe workplace plans and workplace attendance registers, can also be accessed on our website.

A man sits at a sewing machine. He is wearing a colourful face mask and looks very focused on the task.

These resources and templates are available for everyone to access and we hope that the information provided helps our service partners in their planning, preparation and delivery of services with COVID-19 in mind.

Find these resources for all PIC, Australia and New Zealand specific information, on our website here.

We will be offering our assistance to more partner services in planning and implementing their efforts to prevent the spread of COVID-19 and encourage all service partners to get in touch with us as well.

Acknowledgements

Motivation Australia acknowledges the support of the Australian Government through the Australian NGO Cooperation Program (ANCP) and the support of the Government of Canada for enabling these activities to happen and assisting our partners to prevent the spread of COVID-19.