NPH Haiti: Battling COVID-19 by Producing Its Own Hand Sanitizer
St. Damien Pediatric Hospital is in good stead to fight COVID-19, having produced its own hand sanitizer since 2013.
April 27, 2020 - Haiti
NPH’s St. Damien Pediatric Hospital and the St. Luke Foundation for Haiti have been preparing to battle the novel coronavirus. The hospitals have converted specific departments into specialist coronavirus wings to tackle virus cases when they begin to come in.
In addition the pharmacy at St. Damien Hospital is well-versed in making its own hand sanitizing gel, having done so for the past seven years. Originally, the pharmacy began making the gel in order to fight nosocomial, or hospital-associated, infections. This sustainable practice saves the NPH hospital approximately US$3,198 each month. The gel is likely to get even more expensive in the Haitian marketplace once COVID-19 takes hold and is seen to spread.
Hand sanitizer is known to kill pathogens via hand and touch, a known mode of transmission that has enabled the COVID-19 virus to spread so easily around the globe. Hospital staff and patients must now ensure they use the gel upon entering St. Damien Hospital.
“We began production in 2013 in cooperation with the Francesca Rava Foundation and A.P.P.A. (Aid Progress Pharmacist Agreement) Project in Italy,” says Romel Cajuste, head of the St. Damien Hospital Pharmacy. “They gave us technical assistance in handling materials, plus equipment and raw materials for our galenical laboratory. We also received training in Italy and Haiti.
“In 2017, our production of gel reached its peak. We now cover 100% of the hospital at 100%, meaning all departments and all staff. Before we were targeting only a few services. Since the arrival of the virus, we have doubled the production rate of sanitizer from 60 to 120 liters per week.”
St. Damien Hospital currently has three pharmacy technicians working on the production of pharmaceutical laboratory drugs under the supervision of head pharmacist Romel Cajuste. Gel ingredients include Carbopol (a water-soluble polymer), glycerin, isopropyl alcohol, and sodium hydroxide, all mixed with precision.
“The hospital is conducting a major hand hygiene awareness campaign—a need that is even more urgent during the coronavirus pandemic. We are the only hospital in Haiti that produces hydro-alcoholic gel for staff and patients,” adds Romel.
“We have been working hard to educate people who come to visit the hospital. We have tried to prepare as well as we can. We would like to thank the Francesca Rava Foundation and A.P.P.A. for facilitating the opportunity for us to obtain the education and resources to produce hand sanitizer. It has already stopped the spread of illnesses to countless people. And will continue to do so in the weeks and months ahead," concludes Romel.
Aside from the hydro-alcoholic gel, the hospital pharmacy also produces disinfectant soap for hand washing and more than a dozen drugs that are administered to pediatric patients to combat hypertension, anemia, asthma, malnutrition, and other conditions.
As of 27 April, according to Johns Hopkins University Coronavirus Resource Center, Haiti has 76 confirmed COVID-19 cases. St. Damien has not received any cases to date. At the outpatient clinic, benches have been rearranged to enforce mandated social distancing measures and thus help ensure patient safety, while the nosocomial infection control committee, which reviews HAIs or hospital-associated infections, continues various training exercises for all hospital staff.
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Communication Officer, St. Damien Pediatric Hospital