The University of Health and Allied Sciences (UHAS) in collaboration with Ho Teaching Hospital (HTH) has set up an emergency preparedness and response taskforce to draw up a strategy to prevent the spread of COVID-19 (coronavirus disease) in the municipality, and to establish protocols for handling any cases of infection that might show up in the area. On March 9, the taskforce — which was first convened on February 28 by UHAS Vice Chancellor, Professor John Owusu Gyapong — met key stakeholders in Ho Municipality and briefed them on the “UHAS & HTH Emergency Preparedness and Response Plan toward Novel Coronavirus”.
Professor Harry Tagbor, Dean of the School of Medicine and Chairman of the taskforce, explained the mandates of the four subgroups — Clinical, Laboratory, Education & Training, and Publicity & Advocacy — comprising the taskforce, after which each group presented on it’s strategy.
Mrs. Maria Gwira, Director of Public Affairs at UHAS, who moderated the briefing, explained that sharing the “UHAS & HTH Emergency Preparedness and Response Plan toward Novel Coronavirus” with shareholders was crucial for “getting everyone onboard. We need to present a united front in order to manage this global emergency.”
Professor Yaw Asante Awuku, Head of Internal Medicine & Therapeutics, School of Medicine and team leader of the Clinical subgroup, was represented by Dr. Davidson Iroko (Faculty of Anaesthesia & Critical Care) who explained that the Clinical subgroup would develop protocols for every suspected case, following guidelines set up by the World Health Organization (WHO) and the Ghana Health Service (GHS). He also said his team would designate spaces at HTH to be used as stabilisation and holding areas for suspected cases before transferring the patients to designated national treatment centres.
Dr. Kwabena Duedu, Senior Lecturer, Head of Biomedical Sciences Department, School of Basic and Biomedical Sciences and team leader of the Laboratory subgroup said, in readiness for the outbreak, two members of the Laboratory team on March 3 underwent training at the Noguchi Memorial Institute of Medical Research (NMIMR) to acquire first-hand knowledge of the virus and the proper handling of samples. He said there is currently coordination for a laboratory set up within HTH for sample collection, packaging and transportation, while a place at the UHAS permanent site is being sourced for viral RNA extraction, analysis and report. He assured the audience that in addition to some sampling kits that have been acquired, the team also has other equipment needed to test for the virus .
Professor Ernestina Donkor, Acting Dean of the School of Nursing and Midwifery and team leader of the Education and Training subgroup was represented by Mr. Emmanuel Arhin of the Department of Public Health, HTH, who showed stakeholders some Personal Protective Equipment (PPEs) procured for hospital staff, and demonstrated how to properly wear them. The PPEs included gowns, protective goggles, boots, gloves, headgear, masks (N95), and hand washing supplies to be placed at vantage points during public gatherings.
Mrs. Maria Gwira, who is also the team leader of the Publicity and Advocacy subgroup, presented on the public outreach campaign entitled “Say NO to coronavirus in Ho: Know how to protect yourself”, designed by her team to raise awareness about COVID-19 within the UHAS community and surrounding communities in Ho. The campaign will utilise a combination of traditional and high-tech methods and tools to reach various target audiences in the area. A web page at is also under development to house campaign resources and information.
Professor Fred Binka, Founding Vice Chancellor of UHAS and Special Advisor on this taskforce, advised the teams to work in real-time as the virus is fast spreading and could hit this area at any moment.
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