Mumtaz Ali Khan
The emergence of COVID-19 pandemic in Pakistan since February 2020 uncovered huge limitation in the IPC knowledge and best practices of healthcare providers that requires refocused and accelerated efforts to strengthen health systems for implementing IPC interventions as an essential component of patient and health care worker safety.
Establishment of an IPC policy and strategy provides a framework to develop and implement guidelines and standard operating procedures (SOPs) to establish a culture of safety in healthcare facilities.
A strong health system, which includes a culture and infrastructure of IPC, will equip governments and communities to respond and manage outbreaks and prevent the spread of infectious diseases.
The Government of Pakistan through the Ministry of National Health Services Regulations & Coordination (NHSR&C) with technical support of WHO Country Office, Pakistan is working since 2018 for systematic implementation of IPC program based on the WHO Guidelines on Core Components of IPC at all levels of healthcare. Accordingly, formal notifications to establish the nation IPC unit, NIH were issued in 2018, series of capacity building trainings on IPC were conducted. First national guidelines IPC was published in April 2020 with a mandate to oversee the implementation and strengthening of IPC standards and practices in health facilities across Pakistan.
The strategic plan for IPC is divided into five objectives on defining IPC structures, availability of competent workforce, establishing monitoring & evaluation systems, promoting conducive environments for IPC in healthcare facilities & communities and implementing occupational safety along with assignment of responsibility, the timeline and M&E plan with indicators.
The strategic components of this plan have been drawn from JEE recommendations, AMR NAP (2017), National Guidelines IPC, the recent IPC assessments on WHO tools during HIV/AIDS outbreak (Larkana, Sindh) & COVID-19 pandemic.
Even thought, the Plan is comprehensive to allow for creation of an effective and functioning IPC system in Pakistan, with targets expected to be achieved in 3 years. It is strongly conditional to the commitment of IPC stakeholders, meaningful Government support and a strong synergy between the relevant sectors.