Clean water for medical emergency care: Strengthening care quality care during the pandemic

Cooperation and solidarity

Health training is becoming one of the most relevant tasks for improving people’s living conditions. For example, it may seem simple or mundane, but thorough hand washing is deadly to viruses. According to National Geographic magazine, the simple combination of soap and water remains one of the most powerful weapons against infectious diseases, including the coronavirus[1].

Dr. Alejandro Santander, advisor for Central America in the Department of Health Emergencies of the Pan American Health Organization / World Health Organization (PAHO / WHO) confirms this statement by explaining that “the proper use of soap and water helps to neutralize to the virus. [Applying s]oap and water for 20 seconds is the best way to prevent the contagion and spread of the coronavirus.”

Evidently, it is still very important to avoid exposure and to help prevent the virus’ spread. That is why health authorities encourage social distancing, mask usage in public places, and, of course, handwashing with soap.

The truth is that nowadays we are increasingly aware of caring for our health. For this reason, social development in our region, progress in the fight against diseases, and the development of communities cannot be understood without focusing on caring for and improving lifestyles, our hygiene habits, or without a strengthened capacity for water supply.

In Panama, as in other countries, one of the challenges that the health sector has had since the beginning of the pandemic has been how to have greater care capacity for people infected with COVID-19. One of the mechanisms that have been used to face this challenge is the deployment of a modular hospital system to increase the physical capacity to care for people in need; this modality also allows these hospitals to be installed in the place where they are needed. However, some of these modular hospitals require a safe water supply system.

PAHO / WHO are aware that providing safe clinical care and increasing the response level to the COVID-19 emergency’s impact in communities implies supporting health care operations so that they approach the necessary standards. For this reason, they have acquired a number of water treatment kits that are being delivered in various countries in the Americas region. The EMT initiative supports the region’s countries with technical advice to teams that provide direct care to populations affected by emergencies and disasters and supports national or international health systems in their responses.

Dr. Santander explains the initiative “is not only about delivering the kits, but about training the country in the use, handling and installation of this equipment that seek to complement the acquisition of modular hospitals that was carried out previously.”

To this end, PAHO / WHO developed a training workshop for the use of two water treatment kits in the Central Quadrangle of the City of Knowledge, for a group of 35 people. The training was carried out thanks to the financial support of the Spanish Agency for International Development Cooperation (AECID) and the donation of the kits by PAHO. The kits were delivered to the Ministry of Health and the Caja del Seguro Social of Panama.

The kits have the capacity to supply these hospitals with the daily demand for water.

Learning to treat water from the City of Knowledge

The water treatment the kits provide is comprehensive and works in multiple stages. “On the one hand, it includes a part in charge of capturing the water, from a source such as a lake or a river. It also includes a part where water is filtered and another where it is processed. And then a part that stores the already treated water being used according to demand,” explains Santander.

The training had the support of the City of Knowledge fire station, facilitating the supply of drinking water, which allowed simulations and practical exercises to be carried out during the training.

Alma Tejada, Business Development Manager at the City of Knowledge Foundation, highlighted that it was important for the Foundation to contribute to the initiative, providing, on this occasion, logistical support to carry out the activity. “We understand that the need for water is vital to provide modular hospitals with a greater capacity to attend to emergency situations such as the one we live in. To support this training, we mobilized to adapt the space necessary for the workshop and facilitate its execution complying with all the biosecurity and social distancing measures, even throughout the workshop,” she explained.

The people who received the technical training belong to MINSA, the Caja del Seguro Social, the Red Cross, the National Civil Protection System (SINAPROC), and the Fire Department. The participants had already received virtual theoretical training, which added to their experience in terms of maintenance, as well as control and installation of equipment.

PAHO / WHO has been part of the City of Knowledge community for more than 14 years.-


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