Sterile Processing Education in Developing Countries

Christina Fast is an energetic young woman from Calgary, Alberta who is dedicated to bettering the lives of others and is passionate about health care and caring for those in need. Her love of traveling and her love for her job took her to West Africa where she volunteered with charity Mercy Ships, joining 450 international crew members onboard the World’s largest hospital ship. It was there she met Pender Island’s Jane McIntosh, who introduced her to our Greenangels woodchopping team.


Update from Christina – April 6, 2015 – I arrived in Madagascar at the end of February following a quick stop in the Seychelles. This is the first country on the continent, outside of West Africa, that SPECT (Sterile Processing Education Charitable Trust) has worked in. Madagascar is ranked 155 out of 187 countries classified on the Human Development Index. At first glance, it’s understandable to question why this country is known as a developing nation. The capital, Antananarivo (Tana), has cobblestone roads, fancy hotels, street side bakeries, and locals dressed in western clothing. A far contrast to the West African landscape I’ve grown accustomed to. However in reality, Life expectancy is below 65 years, and 84 out of 1,000 children die before the age of 5. More then 70% of the population lives below the poverty line leading to substandard hygiene practices, chronic malnutrition and lack of access to clean water that promotes the development of infectious diseases.

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As a sterile processing technician, Christina was instrumental in helping local surgeons, anesthesiologists and OR nurses understand the severity of sterilizing conditions in Guinea and Sierra Leone. Her volunteer experience inspired Christina to use her professional skills to start her own non-profit organization, Sterile Processing Education in Developing Countries (SPEDC).

The procedure to do this required the use of forceps and scalpels that would be reused. This necessitated sterilization of the instruments – however they did not have access to autoclaves. In collaboration with an anesthetist on board the ship, pressure cookers were tested with colanders inside to sterilize instruments. It was found that with the proper external heating device the pressure cooker was able to not only sterilize the instruments, but could keep them sterile until it was time to use them. These clinics are now using this process to ensure the instruments are kept sterile. Most of the hospitals Christina visited in Guinea and Sierra Leone had autoclaves that were being used to store supplies, as they had parts malfunctioning and no-one knew how to fix them. Being able to use pressure cookers – which could be obtained for $20-30 Canadian and colanders from the kitchen – is a much cheaper alternative and more durable.

With support from the Greenangels, Christina has established Sterile Processing Education in Developing Countries, a Trust that will allow her to work with numerous organizations in various parts of the world. Also, friends and family have been instrumental in supporting her to continue working with Mercy Ships until the organization is established and she can apply for Grant Funding. The Greenangels woodchopping team is also  donating two cords of wood to buy four pressure cookers for Christina to distibute to hospitals in the Congo where she’ll be travelling in the near future.

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