ACIPC Member Priscilla Singh in Fiji

Recently the College worked with the Royal Australasian College of Surgeons to respond to an urgent request from the Fiji Ministry of Health to provide Covid surge support to the Colonial War Memorial and Lautoka Hospitals. ACIPC Member Priscilla Singh was recruited to the team of specialist volunteers to work as an IPC nurse alongside two ICU nurses, two anaesthetists and one intensivist.

The prolonged Covid outbreak has created high levels of fatigue amongst health care workers at the two hospitals. At the request of the Ministry of Health and with support from the Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade (DFAT) the team left Australia on Friday the 17 of September and were in Fiji for a three-week period.

We caught up with Priscilla after she returned from Fiji.

You were recently deployed to provide Covid surge support to the Colonial War Memorial and Lautoka Hospitals in Fiji. What can you tell us about that experience?

I have never done anything like this before so I really did not know what I was getting myself into. I had been involved heavily in the Covid crisis here in Victoria working on the wards and assisting setting up a Covid positive ward in record time. I thought if I can live to tell that tale then I can share my experiences and knowledge with my fellow health care workers in Fiji.
My first impression of the Colonial War Memorial Hospital was looking at this 100-year-old hospital and feeling incredibly proud of how everyone managed during the peak of Covid in June and July. It’s an old, run-down, and minimally resourced hospital yet the staff still managed to still look after the ill. The team I was deployed with were amazing. They were supportive, respectful, and knowledgeable in their field.

What were some of the challenges you and the team faced?

We had no idea what was expected until we had spent a few days in the hospital. Our approach was to ask the staff what their needs were and find out how we could best assist them.
Fijians are very laid back so we had to learn to operate on ‘Fiji time.’ For example, a meeting at 3pm means you need to allow for two or so hours for everyone to come together. We decided to go with the flow, as we were working in their hospital, in their country and on their time.

How did your Foundations of Infection Prevention and Control training help you in this role?

I used a lot of the knowledge I had gained through FIPC as was able to share resources with the Fijian staff. Our day started at 8am finished at 5pm with and staff requested an evening Zoom lecture at 8pm. It was great to be able to share what I had learned.

Is there anything you learned during your time in Fiji that you will use in your day-to-day job?

The experience has made me feel grateful for what we have here. I learned during my deployment that with passion and resilience I am capable, just like my Fijian Healthcare workers.

You are originally from Fiji – were you able to connect with any friends or family when you were there?

Yes! I was able to see my grandma. It was amazing as I had not seen her for the last two years. She practically raised me so it was bittersweet to see her and then leave her.  I am Fijian and was born at the Colonial War Memorial Hospital so it was an honour to go back and serve. I would definitely do it again if no hotel quarantine was involved!
I’d like to thank ACIPC and RACS for the opportunity to go back home and give back to my country and see my grandma.

The College would like to thank ACIPC Members Dr Peta-Anne Zimmerman and Matt Mason who assisted with Priscilla’s recruitment to the role.