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Dossier on the interim status of the project for the year 2008

Training of LRC volunteer rescue workers continues apace. The evening of 9 November 2008 was a special moment for the trainee Lebanese Red Cross instructors and the Emergency Medical Services teaching staff, as it marked the end of the second module in the new instructor training programme. Everyone was exhausted but happy – not surprising given the journey they all had made to get to this point. In July 2008, 26 volunteers had embarked on the first training module. By the end of the second module, only two had dropped out. Five of the remaining 24 will have to re-sit the theory part of the exam in February 2009. But there are high hopes that it will be a case of second-time lucky.

This is an excellent result and proves that the SDC is on the right track with this project, which enjoys support from the ICRC (International Committee of the Red Cross), Geneva University Hospitals (HUG) and the ECAMB (Geneva Paramedical College).

"As the end of the first phase of the project draws to a close, I think it would be fair to say that the design and structure of the instructor training course have stood the test. More importantly, the choice of the LRC as a project partner was definitely the right one. The LRC has been an inspiration and was key to the success notched up by the project so far." This was how Dr. Olivier Hagon, the co-director of the training project, summed up the first phase of the training programme. Set to run until the end of 2010, the aim of the programme is to standardise the skills and knowledge of Lebanon’s 2,400 volunteer rescue workers.

There was virtually full attendance at the course and participants remained focused and highly motivated throughout. They also showed a great capacity for learning and proved to be model students, impressing the instructors with their personal and professional qualities. This is particularly commendable given that volunteer rescue workers in Lebanon receive absolutely no payment for their services.

We should also remember that the two course directors, sent by the SDC - Dr Olivier Hagon, HUG coordinator of the Swiss Rescue medical module, and Béatrice Crettenand Pecorini, instructor at the Geneva Paramedical College - have shown unstinting commitment to the project since its launch back in March 2007. Since September 2007, they have visited several Red Cross stations across the country, remained in constant contact with the LRC, and developed a tight-knit network involving all project partners. As time goes on, the role of this network will play an increasingly important role.

Applying international standards

The traumatology module, which ran from 30 October to 9 November 2008, covered a range of subjects. In addition to a theory part, participants received practical and educational training. Role-play was used to test the trainee instructors’ ability to use medical emergency equipment like neck braces, pelvic supports, KEDs (Kendrick extrication devices), scoop stretchers and spine boards. The theoretical part of the course addressed the treatment of various injuries (head, throat, thorax, abdomen), as well as environmental emergencies caused by natural disasters or industrial accidents. Participants were also instructed in a range of skills, such as handling sterile material and removing stitches.

A number of health professionals were involved in training the course instructors: Dr. Lionel Dumont who had already been involved in the first medical module; Béatrice Crettenand Pecorini, an instructor at the Geneva Paramedical College; and four paramedics from French-speaking Switzerland: Cédric Gremion, Marie-Hélène Imfeld, Laurent Jampen (who was the second team instructor) and Sandrine Richli.

Rising to the challenge

As we look to the future, it is clear that some problems persist. SDC leaders in the field and LRC management are acutely aware of the need for a system which would integrate Lebanese hospitals in the training process. If rescue workers manage to dispense better pre-hospital treatment as a result of their training, the hospital system is more likely to welcome greater cooperation between their own nursing staff and the volunteers. Such action will be a sign of the hospitals’ acceptance of the important role played by rescue workers and their recognition of the skills and professionalism of these volunteers.

There remains a great deal of work to be done in 2009. Olivier Hagon and Béatrice Crettenand Pecorini, together with the Medical Committee and those in charge of training within the LRC, will have to establish a list of criteria which will allow them to evaluate the progress of new instructors more accurately. The evaluation team will be particularly interested in finding out how well the instructors assimilated the knowledge they acquired during the training programme, and how much of it they pass on when it is their turn to train the next batch of instructors.

Next year will also see the crafting of the first draft of a handbook for instructors. This will demand excellent time and content management skills from everyone involved. The preliminary version should be ready by February 2009 and will be trialled in the field by the instructors themselves. The LRC realises that the timetable it has set for the handbook is ambitious: the book should be ready for translation into the three working languages of the rescue workers (English, Arabic and French) by the end of 2009.

Role of the SDC network

The SDC delegation is only too aware of the complexities involved in running this training programme. The delegation members have seen it for themselves during their regular project monitoring missions. Participants in the November 2008 module particularly appreciated a visit from Barbara Daetwyler, Head of the SDC’s Europe and Mediterranean Division. She was accompanied by Véronique Bourquin, who is in charge of the Berne-based programme for Jordan, Syria and Lebanon. The SDC Cooperation Office in Jordan also monitors the project very closely. The head of the office, Santi Vege, along with her colleague Christian Boss are in regular contact with course instructors as well as with the ICRC delegation in Beirut, who have been firm backers of the project.

As luck would have it, Bernard Gruson, the CEO of Geneva University Hospitals (HUG), was able to pay a surprise visit to the students and their instructors. He reiterated that they could still count on HUG support and congratulated them on their commitment.

This convergence of interests augurs well for the future. However, much depends on the two major sponsors, the SDC and the ICRC, renewing their financial commitment to the project in the foreseeable future. This is a hope shared by everyone who has had the chance to be involved in this remarkable project.

Report by Michèle Mercier

 Interview with Georges Kettaneh and Nabih Jabr

 Interview with Sandrine Tiller

Some photo gallerys

 Indoor practical skills
Fotos Eid Atallah

 Mixed outdoor and indoor practical skills
Fotos Eid Atallah

 Jour de l'examen
Fotos Michèle Mercier

 Secouristes au Liban
Fotos Eid Atallah

Additional Information and Documents