Center for Global Health Security team travels to Puerto Rico | Editorial Office

A team from UNMC’s Global Center for Health Security (GCHS) traveled to Puerto Rico to work with the Puerto Rico Medical Reserve Corps to continue development of UNMC’s line of ISTARI isolation tent equipment.

This week-long event is part of a UNMC project funded by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. As a partner in CDC’s Project Firstline, UNMC is committed to strengthening infection prevention and control (IPC) practices in rural and other critical access settings.

David Brett-Major, MD, professor of epidemiology at the UNMC School of Public Health, said Puerto Rico provides excellent collaborators with experience in disaster risk management. The region also faced the appropriate environmental challenges of heat, humidity and storms to test a field version of the ISTARI isolation tent in patient care scenarios involving highly infectious diseases.

Watch a video of the live training in Puerto Rico at this link.

The exercise held this summer allowed UNMC staff, personnel from the Puerto Rico Medical Reserve Corps and Department of Health, and other consultants experienced in high-consequence infectious disease care to practice on-site IPC while also demonstrating a prototype of the ISTARI on-site isolation tent through which pace of. The tent is designed for ongoing intensive care-level case management of patients with infectious diseases outside of a medical facility.

ISTARI (Isolation System for Treatment and Agile Response of High-Risk Infections) is a portable negative pressure system that allows healthcare workers and patients to interact safely without the need for constant use of personal protective equipment. It can make good communication and care easier when a patient needs to be isolated.

“These activities where we test the ISTARI device are excellent opportunities to strengthen core infection prevention and control principles, practices and workflows,” said Jana Broadhurst, MD, a clinical microbiologist at the UNMC School of Medicine and the project’s principal investigator.

Other UNMC participants in the exercise include: James Lawler, MD, professor of infectious diseases and associate director for international programs and innovation at the Center for Global Health Security; Lindsey Bandow, Lauryn Burbridge, Mark Vazquez, and Lisa Willard of the Center for Global Health Security; UNMC Lauren Longacre, School of Public Health; Keaton Read, UNMC medical student; Taylor Burke, student in the MD/PhD Scholars Program.

Dr. Broadhurst said more than 40 local volunteers and staff participated in trainings, discussions and exercises, including simulated field isolation case management in Guayanilla, Puerto Rico, where they worked side-by-side with UNMC team members. These simulations allow UNMC, Puerto Rican personnel, and consultants to provide feedback on the use of ISTARI.

This week culminated in a debriefing session in San Juan, where local public health and emergency response personnel, CDC staff, and other stakeholders learned about the exercise and used the ISTARI equipment on display.

Feedback from the field was positive. PhD. Broadhurst and Brett-Major stated that Puerto Rican volunteers indicated that the IPC training was unique and extremely valuable, and that the ISTARI on-site isolation tent was very useful in their environment.

For UNMC staff developing the isolation system, the exercise provided needed design and construction input, they said.

Dr Brett-Major said: “Everywhere we care for patients, when high levels of infection prevention and control are required, we need to deliver safer, more effective care to improve patient experience, build trust and access in a way that allows healthcare providers to fully engage and apply their strongest skills for the benefit of their patients.”

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