Focus on CHAK Annual Health Conference 2021
The CHAK Annual Health Conference 2021 was successfully held on April 27 and 28, 2021. This was the first time in the history of CHAK that the event has been held virtually. Participants at the event were drawn from CHAK member health units, stakeholders, partners and other Africa Christian Health Associations.
With the theme ‘COVID-19 Pandemic; building resilience for Faith Based Health Services’, the conference focused on developments in the COVID-19 pandemic in Kenya, role of faith-based health services and facility-based management of the illness.
CHAK Chairman Rt. Rev. Dr. Robert Lang’at set the mood for the conference by delivering the opening devotion focusing on the power of innovation. Basing the opening devotion on Isaiah 63:15-19, Rt. Rev. Dr. Lang’at that every sector, including health care and the Church, had been greatly affected by the COVID-19 pandemic. Pandemics witnessed over the years had killed millions and destroyed civilisations. The Chairman challenged CHAK member health units to ensure the facilities were not made dinosaurs by the pandemic. “We need to pray to God for innovative ideas in the pandemic,” noted Dr. Lang’at.
The virtual CHAK Annual Health Conference, he noted, was an example of innovation. Dr. Lang’at further challenged the CHAK member health units to use the lessons learned during the COVID-19 pandemic to innovate solutions to various challenges.
Dr. Willis Akhwale, Chairman, COVID-19 Vaccine Deployment Taskforce, gave an overview of the programme roll out and progress. Dr. Akhwale also spoke to the CHAK Annual Health Participants on the emerging issues, planned monitoring and improvements to the vaccine roll out programme. He observed that a third of the COVID-19 vaccinations done country-wide were in Nairobi County with people above 58 years recording the highest number of doses received. A key discussion point during the session was the role of faith-based health facilities in the vaccination exercise. Dr. Akhwale noted that faith-based health facilities were key allies to the Government in health service provision and would be tasked with vaccinating the population during the second phase of the exercise, working side by side with county health facilities. Concerns on the side effects of COVID-19 vaccines, availability of the second dose of the Astra Zeneca Vaccine for people who have already been given the first dose, level of protection offered by the vaccine and possibility of people making a choice between vaccine brands were also raised by the conference participants.
Infection Prevention and Control
Speaking on infection prevention and control in a hospital setting, Dr Duncan Nyukuri noted that health facilities were ideal settings for COVID-19 transmission and took participants through the hierarchy of IPC controls. Discussions during the infection prevention session centred on transmission, referral, testing and handling the deceased.
COVID-19 messages of hope and the role of the faith community
Dr. Catherine Njigua, CHAP Uzima Project Director, spoke on the interfaith COVID-19 response, an initiative leveraging on the unique strengths of the faith community to mitigate the effects of COVID-19. The initiative focuses on:
- Promoting behaviour change towards risk reduction
- Dissemination of correct and updated COVID-19 messaging to the community
- Addressing some of the untoward effects of COVID-19 containment measures
- Complement the efforts of the Government in COVID-19 mitigation and promotion of overall well-being for all.
The initiative has actively disseminated seven key messages of hope as follows:
- Life – not death
- Hope – not fear
- Connection – not isolation
- Positive role model
- Caring – safely
- Celebration – not stigma
- Influence – builds hope, gratitude, compassion
COVID-19 management at facility level
Dr. Douglas Gaitho from Aga Khan University Hospital delivered an insightful presentation on management of COVID-19 at health facility level. Key areas covered in the presentation were:
- Transmission and symptoms including stages of COVID-19 infection and most common symptoms as well as severity classification.
- Diagnosis and investigations including testing, laboratory and other investigations
- Therapies including care of pregnant women
The presentation also covered the progress of COVID-19 management through the first second and third waves of the disease.
Lessons from CHAK member health units
AGC Tenwek and PCEA Chogoria hospitals were able to share their experiences with managing COVID-19 patients.
Focusing on the conference theme of ‘resilience’ and adding ‘hope’ in the drawn-out war against the pandemic, Tenwek Hospital gave a presentation on efforts by the institution to care for thousands of COVID-19 patients while continuing to offer services in other disease areas. Departments and individuals in the institution contributed their talents and strengths towards fighting the pandemic. Allowing only one visitor per patient, COVID-19 screening through temperature checks on entry, handwashing and sanitizing, observing social distancing at all points and appropriate messaging were some of the measures undertaken by the hospital in the fight against the pandemic.
Among the challenges that the hospital has experienced in the fight against the pandemic are:
- Staff infections
- Fatigue due to mask wearing, social distancing and travel restrictions
- Wait and see attitude of the staff towards the vaccine
However, staff have now accepted the vaccine and many of them have received the injection. They have proceeded to serve tirelessly, competently and courageously in efforts to defeat the virus.
The CHAK Annual Health Conference 2021 offered a rich learning experience for CHAK member health facilities as the world at large and Kenya in particular continues to grapple with the COVID-19 pandemic. Being the first virtual annual health conference for CHAK, the forum is an example of the ‘new normal’ each of us has had to grapple with since the advent of the pandemic in early 2020 and the importance of innovation and resilience, two subjects covered at length in the forum, in overcoming the challenges associated with the disease.