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Emergency Medical Team Awareness and Capacity Building

On the 14th of March, 2019, approximately 50 participants from the Ministry of Health, EMCI, Red Cross, Teimurimotia Fire Rescue Brigade, Airport Fire Rescue, Police and the New Zealand High Commission, attended an Emergency Medical Team (EMT) Awareness and Capacity Building Workshop facilitated by the World Health Organisation (WHO).

Secretary of Health, Dr Josephine Aumea Herman, open the workshop speaking about the importance of Emergency Medical Teams (EMTs), particularly their vital role in responding to health emergencies and natural disasters. WHO’s Sean Casey introduced EMTs as a Global Initiative developed from lessons learned during the response to the 2010 earthquake in Haiti, to strengthen predictable response capacity.

Participants learned of the different types of EMTs that can be created for the Cook Islands and also, international EMTs that can be requested in the event of emergency.

The National Emergency Management framework was explained by Lydia Sijp from EMCI, while Aitutaki Hospital Manager Taraatua Toi shared the emergency response plan for Aitutaki. Martin Buet from the Ministry of Health New Zealand explained the importance of intelligence, planning, operations, logistics, public information management, welfare and international engagement in emergency situations. Dr Emma Lawrey as a member of a New Zealand EMT spoke on the guiding principles and standards of building EMT capability, including quality care, appropriate response, accessible care, ethical care and coordinated response.

Casey also spoke on the importance of clarifying the types of EMTs required, team competencies and national responsibilities retained by national authorities during national emergencies. Participants worked in teams to determine how to assess and deploy EMTs in different emergency scenarios. 

Training organiser Dr Teokotai Maea was pleased with the outcomes of the workshop that will continue into its second and final day on 15 March.

Secretary Herman is grateful to WHO for sharing this initiative to build and strengthen the capacity of EMTs in the Cook Islands.

There are 32 countries in the region with EMTs, four of which are in Fiji, Tonga, Vanuatu and the Solomon’s. The Cook Islands has expressed interest in establishing EMTs for national deployment. Fiji EMTs will be assessed in May 2019 for international deployment.