PNG Snakebite Management Course

CCTC Head Dr David Williams, and Medical Director Dr Simon Jensen have both worked on snakebite projects in Papua New Guinea for more than 15 years. In 2004 they set out to develop a National Training Course in the treatment and management of the bites and stings of venomous snakes and other toxic animals, after recognising that many health workers lacked the basic clinical skills.to adequately manage these emergencies. The philosophy behind the course was that the then declining prognosis of snakebite patients could be reversed if key issues, including health worker and community education and training, were addressed with situationally relevant education and training.

Dr Simon Jensen demonstrating CPR technique to health workers from the Mekeo District of Central Province, PNG.

The inaugural National Snakebite Management Course was conducted at the UPNG School of Medicine and Health Sciences in Port Moresby in September 2004.

Taught by a volunteer faculty of physicians and snakebite specialists from Australia and PNG the course was aimed at rural Health Extension Officers (HEO’s), Community Health Workers (CHW’s) and Nursing Officers (NO’s), as well as hospital-based doctors and NO’s. Annual courses have been conducted in Port Moresby and Madang, and the program expanded to Alotau and Popondetta in 2007. A one day Intensive Care Management of Snakebite Patients Course was started in 2007 to cater to the training and education needs of emergency and intensive care doctors at Port Moresby General Hospital.

Dr Vincent Atua, using positive feedback reinforcement to teach proper application of Pressure Immobilisation Bandaging for snakebite first aid to health workers in Madang, PNG.

Today the course is operated through the newly established Charles Campbell Toxinology Centre (CCTC) based in the School of Medicine and Health Sciences at the University of Papua New Guinea. In 2010 the Australian government lent support to the program by funding the purchase of life support training manikins, and providing financial support to meet course needs until the end of 2012.

Final year Health Extension Officer trainees practicing advanced airway management skills at a Snakebite Training Course in Madang, PNG.

Since it began, the teaching faculty has undergone a distinct shift, with fewer expatriate volunteers running the training in favour of an increasing number of well-trained Papua New Guinean doctors, and the aim is to eventually localise the entire program. Smaller training courses that concentrate on core skills, such as Basic Life Support are also now being run at District level in southern PNG.

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