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The preparedness of emergency medical services against occupationally acquired communicable diseases in the prehospital environment in South Africa
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  1. Ozayr Mahomed1,
  2. Champaklal Chaganlal Jinabhai1,
  3. Myra Taylor1,
  4. Arthur Yancey2
  1. 1Department of Public Health Medicine, Nelson R Mandela School of Medicine, University of KwaZulu-Natal, Private Bag 7, Congella 4013, Durban, South Africa
  2. 2Department of Public Health, Emory University, Atlanta, Georgia, USA
  1. Correspondence to:
 Dr Ozayr Mahomed
 Department of Public Health Medicine, Nelson R Mandela School of Medicine, University of KwaZulu-Natal, Private Bag 7, Congella 4013, Durban, South Africa;mahomed{at}ukzn.ac.za

Abstract

Background: Emergency medical care is performed in an uncontrolled environment and involves invasive procedures and life support measures. The performance of these duties places emergency care practitioners (ECPs) at risk of occupationally acquired injuries and communicable diseases. Although legislative guidelines exist for the protection of healthcare workers, little is known about the protective measures available for and utilised by ECPs in the pre-hospital environment in South Africa.

Objectives: To review the availability and implementation of emergency medical services (EMS)-specific infection control policies and standard operating procedures in the pre-hospital environment.

Methods: Interviews with key informants were used to collect data concerning policies on communicable diseases and infection control in the EMS, the operational aspects of these policies, and educational programmes on communicable diseases and infection control for ECPs.

Results: There is no national policy on communicable diseases and infection control in EMS. Only KwaZulu-Natal, Eastern Cape and Gauteng have EMS-specific standard operating procedures for communicable diseases and infection control. Formal education and in-service training is limited.

Conclusions: A national communicable disease and infection control policy specific to the EMS needs to be developed together with an accredited training module on communicable diseases and infection control for EMS in the pre-hospital environment.

  • EC, Eastern Cape
  • ECP, emergency care practitioner
  • EMS, emergency medical services
  • Gau, Gauteng
  • KZN, KwaZulu-Natal
  • NDOH, National Department of Health
  • OHSA, Occupational Health and Safety Act
  • SOPs, standard operating procedures
  • emergency medical services
  • pre-hospital environment
  • occupationally acquired communicable diseases
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Footnotes

  • Funding: The study received funding from the Australian Government Overseas Aid programme through the National Department of Health.

  • Competing interests: None.

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