Preparing for Ebola strengthens Solomon Islands' health systems

Joint Press release Ministry of Health and Medical Services, The Solomon Islands, WHO

5 December 2014 (Honiara) - The Ministry of Health and Medical Services (MHMS), with the support of the World Health Organization (WHO), is taking action to prepare for an imported case of Ebola virus disease. This has long-term benefits for the health system and frontline healthcare workers in Solomon Islands.

Although the risk of Ebola spreading to Solomon Islands is still very low, the consequences of not responding quickly and effectively to a case could be severe.

"MHMS is taking the necessary steps to prepare for Ebola and improve our ability to detect and respond to infectious diseases," said Dr. Tenneth Dalipanda Permanent Secretary for MHMS.

"With the support of the Australian Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade (DFAT) and the New Zealand Ministry of Foreign Affairs and Trade, we are training our clinicians and healthcare workers in patient management, specimen collecting, contact tracing, reporting procedures, and the safe usage of personal protective equipment. We are also improving our ability to detect sick passengers arriving at the airport."

"Staff have attended international training sessions on the International Health Regulations (2005) and Ebola preparedness, as well as infection prevention and control," said Dr. Aaron Oritaimae, Incident Controller of the Ministry of Health’s Emergency Operations Centre.

"We are not yet fully prepared, but we are on our way", said Dr. Dalipanda.

"This proactive action is an investment into the future of Solomon Islands. It will also help us to better detect and respond to other infectious diseases that may appear in the future."

For Ebola to spread to Solomon Islands it would need to be imported by a person infected with the virus, coming from a country affected by the current outbreak, such as Guinea, Liberia and Sierra Leone. No cases have been reported in the Pacific or Asian regions to date.

The Ebola outbreak in West Africa is the largest ever recorded and has been declared a Public Health Emergency of International Concern. There are 17 145 cases and 6070 deaths reported. All countries have been called upon to stay alert and prepare for a case.

"What this Ebola outbreak is showing us is that weaknesses in health systems in one country can affect people all over the world. Infectious diseases do not respect borders", said WHO Representative for Solomon Islands Dr. Audrey Aumua.

"Creating strong primary health systems (care given outside of the hospital) increases the capacity of provincial health authorities to manage their own resources. This investment improves the linkages within the health system, increases the number of highly skilled health workers in rural areas and, ultimately, increase the ability of the health system to identify and respond to infectious disease outbreaks."

Preparedness is key. The Pacific is a hotspot for infectious diseases and continually improving surveillance and response systems and support to frontline health workers is important.

MHMS and WHO will continue to work together to strengthen health systems in Solomon Islands.

For media enquiries, please contact:

Ms. Samantha Chapman
Communications Officer
World Health Organization
+(677) 783 9327
chapmans@wpro.who.int

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