In its first ever operations in the Czech Republic, Médecins Sans Frontières (MSF) is supporting the COVID-19 response in nursing homes around the country, in cooperation with the Ministry of Labour and Social Affairs. Since early November, MSF teams have been providing training in infection prevention and control measures to nursing home staff, who are on the frontline of the COVID-19 response.
“Our teams were looking for a way to support the most vulnerable communities in response to the deteriorating pandemic situation in the Czech Republic,” says MSF project coordinator Pavel Gruber. “We discovered that providing support with infection prevention and control in nursing homes was the most efficient course of action.”
MSF staff providing nursing home staff with support
In early November, the Czech Republic became one of the three countries globally with the highest number of COVID-19 cases per million people. The disease is spreading particularly fast among elderly people. Nursing home staff, who do not necessarily have medical training, often find themselves in the position of having to put in place infection prevention and control measures with little to no guidance or previous experience.
MSF has two mobile teams, each consisting of a nurse and a logistician. They are visiting nursing homes around the country to give feedback and advice, based on MSF’s expertise in dealing with infectious diseases around the world, as well as on our experience supporting homes during COVID-19 peaks in Spain, Belgium and elsewhere earlier this year.
“For the nursing home staff, this is often their first opportunity to discuss the measures they are introducing,” says Pavel Dacko, an MSF logistician with experience working in Kenya, Democratic Republic of Congo, Niger and Chad. “They can speak with someone who has an external view. It’s also an opportunity to be appraised.”
“We walk through the care home and plan with the staff how to introduce ‘clean’ and ‘dirty’ zones, whether they have isolation rooms, where staff will put on their protective gear and where they will dispose of it afterwards,” says Tereza Pokorná, an MSF nurse on one of the teams. “We need to see all of this physically because that is how the best ideas arise.”
Onsite support, online resources and psychological support
In the first two weeks of MSF’s response, the two mobile teams visited 23 care homes, mainly in the Pilsner and South Moravian regions. Now, they are expanding their support to other regions and plan to visit a further 12 care homes in the coming week.
As well as on-site support through our mobile teams, we have also set up a website providing resources for medical and non-medical professionals responding to COVID-19. In partnership with other organisations, MSF is also promoting psychological support for first-line responders.
While MSF’s operations in the Czech Republic are currently small and focused on specific activities, we are closely monitoring the situation of those people most vulnerable to COVID-19 and our teams are ready to respond when needed.