St. George’s University Partners with Global Health Organizations to Address Occupational Safety of Health Workers

St. George’s University has partnered with the Pan American Health Organization (PAHO), Grenada’s National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health (NIOSH), and the Center for Disease Control (CDC) to provide a workshop geared at addressing the concerns of occupational hazards to health care workers specifically in relation to needle stick injuries and exposure to blood borne pathogens. The workshop, which is in line with a growing global movement towards dealing with this very critical public health issue, aims to “prepare leaders in health care to provide training on occupational health and prevention of blood borne infections, implement and evaluate policy and intervention measures to protect health workers, and establish a regional surveillance network for occupational health.”

The three-day workshop which began on June 7, 2011 is being attended by 40 health care professionals with combined experience of more than 500 years. The attendees come from nine countries—including Grenada, Trinidad and Tobago, Barbados, Dominica, St. Lucia, Belize, Nevis, Suriname and the British Virgin Islands—and various professions and foci within the health care sector, including physicians, Ministry of Health officials, professors, nurses, and other health care workers working in the areas of infection control, trauma / accident care, midwifery, and neonatology. The attendees will be responsible for conveying the knowledge and skills learned from the workshop to their respective organizations and countries.

The workshop is the brainchild of Dr. Omar Cinar Elci, Director of St. George’s University Department of Public Health and Preventive Medicine (DPHPM). In his opening address he commented, “We need to take care of our working people. We rely on our health care workers for our health but often do not consider their safety.” He pointed out that health care workers were exposed to even more occupational hazards than agricultural, construction, or factory workers. Dr. George Mitchell, a Ministry of Health official and graduate of St. George’s Department of Public Health and Preventive Medicine, represented Grenada’s Minister of Health Senator Ann Peters who was out of the island. Dr. Mitchell stated, “We are ever conscious that a healthy, uninjured workforce is vital to our country’s well-being.” He urged participants to find ways to implement what they learned in the workshop.

Presenters at the workshop included Drs. Ernest Pate and Marie-Claude Lavoie representing PAHO; Drs. Ahmed Gomaa and Maria Lioce representing NIOSH/CDC; Drs. Gillian Benjamin and Francis E. Martin representing Grenada’s Ministry of Health; and Drs. Omar Cinar Elci and Praveen Durgampudi from St. George’s University DPHPM. Among topics to be covered at the workshop are the risk of occupational transmission of blood-borne pathogens, management of these risks, measures to be taken after exposure, how to conduct workplace assessment, and how to carry out a rapid assessment for blood-borne pathogens. Additionally, participants will have the opportunity to apply some of what they learnt at a hospital site visit on Wednesday, June 8. Participants are very excited about the workshop, as the sessions promise to be interesting, informative and interactive and believe it will certainly go a long way in addressing this long standing issue.

About St. George’s University
St. George’s University is a center of international education, in Grenada with graduates, students, and faculty from 140 countries, including 1,342 from Grenada and 476 from the Caribbean. St. George’s is affiliated with educational institutions worldwide, including the United States, the United Kingdom, Canada, Australia, and Ireland. The University’s nearly 11,000 graduates include physicians, veterinarians, scientists, and public health and business professionals across the world. The University programs are accredited and approved by many governing authorities and repeatedly recognized as the best in the region.