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Focus on critical care for all as Durban hosts prestigious international conference

In just a few weeks, Durban will be playing host to the biggest gathering of critical care professionals this country has ever seen.
The 11th Congress of the World Federation of Intensive and Critical Care Medicine, which will be held in Durban from August 28 to September 1, already has over 1500 registered delegates who will be meeting at the international Convention Centre to discuss the latest developments in intensive and critical care medicine. The meeting is hosted by the Critical Care Society of Southern Africa.

“Critical care should be ICU without walls,” explains Dr Dean Gopalan, Co-chairman of the Local Organising Committee of the conference and Head of Anaesthesiology & Critical Care Nelson R Mandela School of Medicine, UKZN. “In addition to care of patients within designated ICU’s, it extends to the care that is given to any patient whose condition is life threatening and who needs comprehensive care and constant monitoring anywhere in, or outside the hospital. In developing countries it is often far less high tech than you may expect.”

The theme of the 11th Congress of the World Federation of Intensive and Critical Care Medicine, which will be held in Durban from August 28 to September 1, is ‘Critical Care for all – Providing more for less’.

The choice of theme reflects the fact that the congress will be held on the African continent for the first time, and turns the focus on the different ways that problems can be handled in differently-resourced countries.

One focus of the meeting will be the treatment of sepsis.

“Most people don’t realise that sepsis is the number one killer in the world,” explains Dr Sats Bhagwanjee, who is part of the local organising committee for the event. “Death certificates name diseases like malaria and TB and pneumonia as a cause of death but the real cause could be more accurately described as sepsis.”

Sepsis is a whole-body inflammatory state which is caused by the body’s extreme immune response to an infection. It is an exaggerated, inappropriate response that can lead to swelling of the organs and ultimately to death.

“One of the legacies of the conference that we hope to see will be the creation of a programme and guidelines to manage sepsis in low income countries,” Dr Bhagwanjee explains. “There will be a meeting of the Global Sepsis Alliance during the conference, and we will be launching a multi-pronged approach to sepsis which will include engagement with the youth as well as increased research and training across Africa to deal with the problem of sepsis.”

Critical care is a vital part of the service that any hospital offers, and the Congress organisers are planning to release a Durban Declaration as a legacy for the meeting. This document will highlight different aspects of critical care that need to be addressed, in particular research, sepsis, vulnerable populations and ethics.

It is these four areas of concern that will act as a thread through the event as the scientific programme focuses on the most current issues in critical care of adults and children. The workshops, lectures and symposia will also play host to allied fields which play an integral part in the care of patients, including physiotherapy and dietetics.

The program will include plenary lectures, thematic sessions, cutting-edge Meet-the-Expert sessions with interactive audience participation, interactive debates, clinical ward rounds, tutorials, round table meetings, hands-on workshops, industry sponsored symposia and the presentation of original scientific research in the form of free oral communications and poster presentations.

Keynote addresses will include lectures on the haemodynamic monitoring of critically ill patients; the root causes of critical illness; disaster preparedness; and strategies and solutions for antibiotic resistance. The programme will also examine the ethics of critical care as well as provide a platform for the latest, controversial studies on the fluid management in critical illness.

As part of the legacy of the event, delegates are being encouraged to bring books for children with them which will be distributed through Books4Africa to disadvantaged schools across the continent.

“We wanted to leave something tangible as a result of this meeting,” Dr Gopalan says. “Books4Africa was a natural fit. If every one brings a book or two with them it will be a huge contribution to the education of our children, and so much more meaningful than just putting a hand in a pocket.”

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