UTech Jamaica Hosts Infection Control Virtual Seminar Amidst Ongoing COVID-19 Crisis

Nurses and other members of the health fraternity from across the Caribbean region joined in a virtual seminar on Thursday, April 8, 2021 hosted by the Caribbean School of Nursing, (CSON) in the College of Health Sciences, themed “Unprecedented Times: Infection Control Maximized”.

Welcoming participants to the seminar, Dr. Adella Campbell, Head, Caribbean School of Nursing, noted that the session was convened to provide additional information on infection control, especially in light of the ongoing COVID-19 crisis. The virtual seminar included informative presentations from UTech, Jamaica Lecturers Dr. Audrey Gittens, and Mrs. Sandra Goulbourne-Mills.





Defining Infection Prevention and Control (IPC) as ‘the scientific approach and practical solution designed to prevent harm caused by infection to patients and health care workers’, Dr. Audrey Gittens underscored the need for robust, specific and holistic IPC measures, especially in a pandemic, where the threat of transmission of infectious diseases is global. Highlighting the importance of infection prevention and control, Dr. Gittens, noted that “preventing harm to patients, health workers and visitors due to infection in health care facilities is fundamental to achieve quality care, patient safety, health security and the reduction of health care-associated infections.”

She noted the many negative effects of infection transmission, including threats to social cohesion brought about by the need to maintain physical distance; and threats to economic stability and livelihood, where sources of income are lost and disrupted. Noting that every patient is entitled to “clean and safe care”, Dr. Gittens advocated for the implementation of World Health Organization strategies in building IPC programmes that effectively reduce Hospital Acquired Infections (HAI) and Antimicrobial Resistance (AR).  She pointed out, however, that these recommendations needed to be tailored to the specific needs and resources of the region, country or healthcare facility to guarantee the best possibility of success. “It is critical to start by ensuring that at least minimum requirements for IPC are in place, both at the national and facility level, and to gradually progress to the full achievement of all requirements of the IPC core components according to local priority plans,” she emphasized.

These components, Dr. Gittens explained, include national and facility evidence-based infection prevention and control guidelines, adequate, continuous practical and simulation education and training in infection prevention and control, health care-associated infection surveillance, blame-free and non-punitive monitoring, evaluation and feedback on healthcare practices, adequate staffing, workload and bed occupancy considerations in health care facilities and the consideration of adequate built environment factors, including cleanliness and space, provision of personal protective equipment (PPE) and the implementation of water quality standards, environmental cleanliness and sanitation. Throughout her presentation, Dr. Gittens also stressed the need for a multi modal IPC approach, indicating that all have a role to play in the process and underscoring the importance of non-health care individuals washing hands and wearing masks to stem the spread of COVID-19. Other standard and transmission-based precautions include injection and medication safety, reprocessing of reusable medical equipment, waste management and cough management.

Another important cornerstone of IPC is risk assessment, which Dr. Gittens defined as “the vital skill of identifying sources of infection, or actions that can lead to infections.” She elaborated that risk assessment involved assessing the possibility of coming into contact with blood or bodily fluids, or in cases where patients display symptoms of undiagnosed infection, and adhering to facility-specific transmission-based precautions in order to prevent transmission and contraction of infectious diseases. In congratulating regional authorities on their respective implementation of IPC measures, Dr. Gittens expressed appreciation to health care workers for their continued perseverance in the treatment of and fight against the spread of the corona virus.

Mrs. Sandra Goulbourne-Mills, Clinical Coordinator, College of Health Sciences, in her contribution to the discussion pointed out that the rise in the last two decades of infectious diseases which spread across local and national boundaries, pose a significant challenge to the public health system. The public health system is defined as “the science and art of preventing diseases, prolonging life and promoting health through organized efforts and informed choices of society, public and private organizations, communities and individuals”.

Mrs. Goulbourne-Mills noted that within this system, the prevention and control of infection diseases is governed by the principles of protecting the health of the whole population and “preparing for and responding to disease outbreaks and promoting health care equity, quality and accessibility.” In contrast to clinical professional who provide direct health care through screenings, diagnosis and treatment, public health practitioners focus on “the development and implementation of education programs, conducting research and making evidence-based public policy recommendations”.

Speaking specifically to the Ministry of Health and Wellness in Jamaica, Mrs. Goulbourne-Mills noted various IPC strategies, including immunization, care quality improvement through regional and local health entities, community health needs assessments, community health improvement programmes, local data collection and reporting and the development, application and enforcement of health-promoting policies. 

In discussing the implementation of various IPC measures, Mrs. Goulbourne-Mills underscored the importance of paediatric IPC management, noting that children, especially infants, are reliant on caregivers to ensure the adherence to hand hygiene and cough etiquette guidelines.  Her presentation also explored the types and modes of infection, where she made a distinction between direct (person to person, droplets and exchange of bodily fluids) and indirect contact (airborne transmission, transmission through food and water, contaminated objects, and animal to person).

In providing valuable information on the use of hand sanitizers, Mrs. Goulbourne-Mills also expounded on the recommended components and best practices in storing the substance and the possibility of negative effects. Mrs. Goulbourne-Mills concluded that using a hand sanitizer with an alcohol content of 60% was a sufficient method of avoiding germs, especially in cases where hand washing with soap and water was not immediately possible. She recommended that hand sanitizers be stored away from children to prevent accidental poisonings, and as well as the need for moisturizing hands after hand sanitizer application, since the alcohol content strips away the natural oils in the skin.

In presenting practical ways to combat infection spread, Mrs. Goulbourne-Mills highlighted, through a brief video, the various ways to reduce droplet spread from sneezing, as well as a practical guide to donning and doffing PPE.  


Michelle Beckford (Mrs.)
Corporate Communications Manager
University of Technology, Jamaica
Telephone: 876 970-5299 
Email: mbeckford@utech.edu.jm