Follow-up in Cameroon after Mercy Ships/SPECT training


In October 2017, Mercy Ships & SPECT provided a Sterile Processing course for 20 healthcare workers from 5 hospitals in Douala.

The subjects covered during this 5-day course included Microbiology, Infection Prevention, Cleaning, Disinfection, Surgical Instrumentation, Sterilization, Sterile Storage and Safe Transport.

After the course, we held a 2-day Training of Trainers (ToT) program for 10 participants who demonstrated leadership skills, had positive attitudes and excelled on their pre-and post-tests. Throughout the ToT course, participants were given an opportunity to build on their educator skills by working in small groups to teach competencies and receive constructive feedback from their peers.

Two weeks ago, roughly four months since the training, I returned to Douala to offer further mentoring and support, as well as to follow-up on goals that had been set by the ToT’s to advance their hospitals instrument reprocessing methods.

The improvements that had made within such a short amount of time were truly astounding.  


One hospital jumped right into action and within a matter of days following the training they had made some major improvements to their decontamination and sterilization areas; including installing A/C units to keep the temperature low, which will help prevent microorganisms from rapidly growing. They had a stainless steel 3-sink set up built so that they can properly clean their surgical instruments and created labels/signage throughout the department so that all staff who enter are aware of the one-way flow from dirty to clean and understand the importance of protecting themselves and the items around them. They also had new doors installed to help control unauthorized staff from walking in and out of the department which will reduce the risk of cross-contamination.

Some of the hospital staff who were not in attendance of the training informed me that they’ve seen a noticeable difference in the cleanliness of surgical instruments. But what was more noticeable to them was the positive change in attitude and quality of work coming from the sterile processing staff. 

Another hospital completely removed Javel (bleach) from their instrument reprocessing practices (which causes instruments to rust, stain, break etc.) and has now replaced it with a safer, more superior product, that has been available to them for a while, but they didn’t understand its purpose until the training. Now, staff understand that if instruments aren’t cleaned well first, then sterilization won’t be effective. They commented that the training they’ve received has given them full confidence in knowledge and makes them feel good knowing that when they’re teaching students and other trainees, they’re now assured that they’re teaching the best and safest practices.


At this hospital alone, they’ve already provided training for 32 staff members on the new methods they’ve learned. They also collaborated with Suzanne Veltjens, a volunteer nurse with Mercy Ships, to create a manual of procedural write-ups for 11 of their instruments sets, which will help maintain quality and reduce the risk of instruments going missing.

During my last day of follow-up I had an opportunity to see some direct results of the training in action. I was invited by the general secretary to attend a quarterly meeting for all head nurses from each department. During this meeting, I stood in the back and observed while three ToT’s from our course presented on the proper steps of cleaning surgical instruments. It was one of my proudest moments, to see these individuals who only four months ago were hesitant to embrace these new concepts, to now, where they were the ones teaching their colleagues with confidence and flawlessly answering the same questions that they had asked not long ago. It was a moment that myself and many others working in Medical Capacity Building rarely get to witness. A moment of true affirmation that the knowledge we’re imparting through education and training is being well comprehended and passed on to others in the hospital, leading to ultimate change and support of safe surgery in Cameroon.


Christina Fast

Founder of SPECT


The 2017 SPECT Perspective


3 countries, 62 Healthcare Centers, 140 Staff Trained

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New Partner: Assist International

Under the GE Foundation Safe Surgery 2020 Initiative, Assist International awarded SPECT with a sub-contract to work with 12 hospitals in Ethiopia.

What's New in 2017

Top 40 Under 40

Our founder, Christina Fast, was honoured to be selected as part of Avenue magazine's Top 40 Under 40 Class of 2017. 

Read More Here

First Publication

Now available in the British Medical Journal, Global Health: An analysis on limited sterile processing capabilities in the Republic of Congo, Madagascar and Benin.

2017 Timeline


SPECT receives a sub-contract from Assist International

In 2017 SPECT partnered with Assist International to provide education and training in surgical instrument processing to employees from 12 hospitals in Ethiopia as part of the Safe Surgery 2020 (SS2020) Initiative funded by GE Foundation. 


Throughout this sub-contract we have provided education and training to 24 hospitals in Ethiopia, resulting in over 200 healthcare workers who have increased their skills in effectively cleaning and sterilizing surgical instruments to support safe surgery. 

SPECT Volunteer Michelle Webb

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"My time with SPECT was one full of learning, growth and hands on experience. It brought me great joy to witness hands-on sustainable change while seeing such positive engagement and collaboration between the SPECT team and the participants. It was a privilege to journey alongside the participants as they implemented their new skills and engaged in action plans in their own communities and hospital environments. Their excitement to share was tangible. Through my time with SPECT it was evident they are a passion- filled, motivated team that has a desire for safer surgeries and improved patient outcomes in every country that they collaborate with. SPECT is truly remarkable!" -Michelle Webb RN
SPECT Volunteer Benin/Ethiopia 2017

The 2016 SPECT Perspective

Highlights of our work in 2016

We now have a US presence! SPECT US was established in February 2016, as a sister organization to SPECT Canada. We are thrilled to have partners in the US who share the same vision. We are also excited to be able to provide tax receipts for donations made by US donors! 

To date in 2016, SPECT volunteers spent a combined total of 11 weeks working in Madagascar and 4 weeks in Benin. A fall trip is planned that will add another 13 weeks in Benin.



27 sterilization systems, 3 urban hospitals, 23 health clinics

In Jan-Feb 2016, SPECT’s Program Coordinator spent 3 weeks coordinating the distribution of 27 sterilization systems to 3 urban hospitals and 23 rural health clinics in and around Antananarivo and Antsirabe, Madagascar. The recipients of these units understood the importance of sterilization and expressed deep appreciation and confidence that now they would actually have a method of steam sterilizing their instruments.

In February, Global News Calgary sent the husband and wife team of Jamie and Tommy Mentzelopoulos, to join our volunteers, Christina and Dan in Madagascar to film SPECT’s work. In May, Global News Calgary ran a 3 night series on the work of SPECT, Mercy Ships, and a Calgary project to save endangered lemurs in Madagascar. Here’s the link to SPECT’s work:

Sterilization Packages

SPECT was selected to receive a grant from Grand Challenges Canada to promote an “innovate idea” in health care. Our idea was to see if we could use a simple pressure cooker fitted with a specialized basket that could suspend surgical instruments and then be heated using a non-electrical source. The objective was to provide hospitals and clinics with a low cost, simple, and effective method of sterilizing surgical instruments.  We are delighted to say that this project was successful; we were able to find a local medical supplier who imported the large pressure cookers, we hired a local welder to weld the stainless steel baskets, and we found a Swiss/Madagascar NGO that produced charcoal stoves that worked well as heating sources for these units. In December 2015 and January 2016 we were able to distribute 27 sterilization systems to clinics and urban hospitals that had no means of steam sterilizing their instruments. We were also able to train all of the recipients on safe operation and maintenance of the units.

Read more about the 2016 SPECT Newsletter

Hospital Mattress Distribution

Although purchasing and distributing hospital mattresses is not a SPECT focus, when Christina and Dan visited a hospital in Antsirabe in April and toured the maternity department, both were shocked to observe women just out of delivery lying on foam mattresses that offered little support, had either no covers or extensively ripped covers on them, and which had been badly stained with bodily fluids. 


Since infection control is SPECT’s focus, Christina was determined to “do something about this” and promised the hospital director that SPECT would try to raise funds to replace as many mattresses as possible (the hospital has 150 beds). Market research revealed 4 mattress suppliers in Madagascar. Following tours of several other hospitals and discussions with staff, one supplier was selected. Funds were raised at our silent auction and from a group of generous donors in Australia, (thanks Laura and Jen for spearheading this!) SPECT was able to raise enough funds for the purchase of 10 mattresses. Christina and Kayla had the privilege in September to deliver these mattresses and experience the joy and gratitude expressed by the staff and hospital director. 


Partnership with MercyShips


When Mercy Ships sends advance teams to a country to discuss a ship visit, meetings are held with senior Ministry of Health officials. One opportunity offered at these meetings is to have SPECT educators provide sterile processing training for hospital and clinic staff. If these officials welcome the opportunity, SPECT volunteers will begin an extensive evaluation process of not only the sterilization procedures at each facility but also worksite arrangements and efficiency. Health care workers are then invited to a classroom course followed by hands on mentoring at their workplace after the classroom sessions.