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malaria RDT test ;

Reducing the malaria burden in Sierra Leone

Catherine Setchell

Senior Communications Officer, King's Global Health Partnerships

25 April 2021

On World Malaria Day 2021 we mark the successes and celebrate the role King’s has played in the fight against malaria in Sierra Leone.

Despite improvements in malaria care over the last decade, the burden of malaria in Sierra Leone still affects the country, with over 2.24 million hospital visits due to malaria each year. King’s Global Health Partnerships (KGHP) recently completed a 3.5-year project, Strengthening Health Systems to Improve Fever management (SHIFT), funded by Comic Relief and GSK. The project aimed to improve the quality of care for patients who suffer from fever, a major symptom of malaria.

 

SHIFT malaria team Sierra Leone

Working in close partnership with Sierra Leone’s Ministry of Health and Sanitation; the National Malaria Control Programme; and Connaught Hospital, Sierra Leone’s main tertiary referral hospital, KGHP has trained and mentored over 600 junior doctors, nurses, lab technicians, pharmacists and surveillance officers at Connaught Hospital to improve fever management and malaria diagnosis and treatment.

Health worker training SHIFT malaria project SL
I noticed after the training, [house officers] are more confident to say why they’ve prescribed [a particular] drug for a patient and why they make such a decision to treat for it as severe malaria or uncomplicated malaria.– Dr Sorie Conteh, Coordinator of Malaria Care at Connaught Hospital, Sierra Leone

Better access to malaria testing and treatment

Prior to the SHIFT project, patients had to go through 35 steps to access free malaria testing at Connaught Hospital. Thanks to the introduction of malaria Rapid Diagnostic Testing at triage, this has been reduced to just three steps. Patients with suspected malaria are now routinely tested by a trained nurse, on arrival at triage, ensuring they receive timely and appropriate care.

The project also launched the Patient Advocacy and Liaison Service (PALS) – the first of its kind in a government hospital – to help patients navigate hospital services. Sierra Leone’s Ministry of Social Welfare is now implementing PALS in seven other healthcare facilities over the next year.

Patient advisory liaison officer posters SL
“[The PALS officer] supported me to get my medical request approved and facilitated the process for me to get treatment quickly. It would have been difficult for me if you were not around to assist me, because I virtually do not have any understanding of the processes.– Patient at Connaught Hospital, Sierra Leone

Faster testing and a steady supply of malaria treatment

A new, digital laboratory system was also introduced to Connaught Hospital to help improve the turn-around time of diagnostic test results, reduce clerical work and limit the risk of errors. Following the successful pilot of this digital system, the Ministry of Health and Sanitation is rolling it out nationally to other laboratory facilities.

As well as seeing improvements in the diagnosis of malaria, patients are able to access malaria treatment more easily since the project introduced an improved stock management system at the hospital pharmacy, as well as better reporting of usage of supplies and malaria rates within the hospital.

The question of stock outs is now a thing of the past. Before there used to be [regular] stock out of anti-malarial products.– Dr Mohammad Bawoh, Head of Pharmacy at Connaught Hospital, Sierra Leone
Stock management at Connaught Hospital pharmacy SL

A SHIFT project impact report published today states, “The quality of malaria care has improved considerably as a result of the SHIFT project. Nurses have a steady supply of RDT tests to diagnose patients; doctors have the confidence to differentiate between malaria and other diseases; and patients can be more confident about the diagnosis and treatment given to them at Connaught Hospital. Diagnosis and treatment have improved.”

 

To learn more about the impacts of King’s work in strengthening the health system for malaria care, download the SHIFT project impact report here.

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