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Calgary woman brings infection prevention to Madagascar hospitals

Mission Madagascar I: Calgarian aims to improve Madagascar hospital sterilization
WATCH ABOVE: Calgary’s Christina Fast is helping health care workers in Africa, hoping to prevent the spread of infection to both patients and staff. Global’s Jayme Doll has more in part one of her special series, Mission Madagascar.

TOAMASINA, Madagascar – Catheters soak in a plugged sink of brown water, a small patch of blood stains the cement floor and splinters of broken glass spiderweb across the window. These are the characteristics of a sterilization room at a hospital in eastern Madagascar.

“One of the problems we’ve come across here, for lack of funding, is for gloves and gowns to protect the people who are cleaning the instruments,” Christina Fast said.

Catheters are soaking in a sink in preparation to be re-used. (Toamasina, Madagascar)
Catheters are soaking in a sink in preparation to be re-used. (Toamasina, Madagascar) Christina Fast, SPECT

It’s just one of the challenges the young Calgary sterilization technician is determined to tackle. She started her own non-profit organization, called Sterile Processing Education Charitable Trust (SPECT), after witnessing a major lack of education and resources around sterilization of hospital instruments in Africa.

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“You can have the best surgeon in the world but if they don’t have clean equipment, the patient could still get an infection, so that’s what we are working on here,” she said under her hospital mask during a recent trip to the country.

Global journalist Jayme Doll films a hernia surgery in Antananarivo, Madagascar. The patient is a two-year-old boy.
Global journalist Jayme Doll films a hernia surgery in Antananarivo, Madagascar. The patient is a two-year-old boy. Christina Fast, SPECT

It’s not uncommon to see dried blood still caked into the serrations of tools being sent to the operating room, or rusted-out scalpels, and re-used gauze. In some cases, health care workers just don’t have the right brushes for the job.

WATCH: Calgary woman starts business in Madagascar to teach medical staff how to clean instruments

Calgary woman starts business in Madagascar to teach medical staff how to clean instruments
Calgary woman starts business in Madagascar to teach medical staff how to clean instruments

Fast said it’s not in the hospital’s budget. She said many brushes only cost “about ten cents Canadian.”

Christina Fast of SPECT holds up worn brushes while teaching in Madagascar.
Christina Fast of SPECT holds up worn brushes while teaching in Madagascar. Mercy Ships-Ruben Plomp

Fast is working with other health care workers to increase awareness and proper practice within a realm that is feasible, hoping to prevent the spread of infection to both patients and staff.

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WATCH: Christina Fast with Sterile Processing Education Charitable Trust joins Global Calgary with details on her work for hospital infection prevention in developing countries

Calgary Woman on an infection prevention mission for African hospitals
Calgary Woman on an infection prevention mission for African hospitals

Tune in and check back online tomorrow for the second part in Jayme Doll’s special series, Mission Madagascar.