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Durham University

Department of Anthropology


Publication details for Dr Hannah Brown

Ratnayake, R., Ho, L., Ansumana, R., Brown, H., Borchert, M., Miller, L., Kratz, T., McMahon, S. & Sahr, F. (2016). Improving Ebola infection prevention and control in primary healthcare facilities in Sierra Leone: a single-group pretest post-test, mixed-methods study. BMJ Global Health 1(4): e000103.

Author(s) from Durham


Background Accomplishing infection prevention and control (IPC) in health facilities in Sub-Saharan Africa is challenging. Owing to poor IPC, healthcare workers (HCWs) were frequently infected during Sierra Leone's Ebola epidemic. In late 2014, IPC was rapidly and nationally scaled up. We carried out workshops in sampled facilities to further improve adherence to IPC. We investigated HCW experiences and observed practice gaps, before and after the workshops.

Methods We conducted an uncontrolled, before and after, mixed-methods study in eight health facilities in Bo and Kenema Districts during December 2014 and January 2015. Quantitative methods administered to HCWs at baseline and follow-up included a survey on attitudes and self-efficacy towards IPC, and structured observations of behaviours. The intervention involved a workshop for HCWs to develop improvement plans for their facility. We analysed the changes between rounds in survey responses and behaviours. We used interviews to explore attitudes and self-efficacy throughout the study period.

Results HCWs described IPC as ‘life-saving’ and personal protective equipment (PPE) as uncomfortable for providers and frightening for patients. At baseline, self-efficacy was high (median=4/strongly agree). Responses reflecting unfavourable attitudes were low for glove use (median=1/strongly disagree, IQR, 1–2) and PPE use with ill family members (median=1, IQR, 1–2), and mixed for PPE use with ill HCWs (median=2/disagree, IQR, 1–4). Observations demonstrated consistent glove reuse and poor HCW handwashing. The maintenance of distance (RR 1.09, 95% CI 1.02 to 1.16) and patient handwashing (RR 1.19, 95% CI 1.3 to 1.25) improved to >90%.

Conclusions We found favourable attitudes towards IPC and gaps in practice. Risk perceptions of HCWs and tendencies to ration PPE where chronic supply chain issues normally lead to PPE stock-outs may affect practice. As Sierra Leone's Ebola Recovery Strategy aims to make all facilities IPC compliant, socio-behavioural improvements and a secure supply chain are essential.