As the world marked World Patient Safety Day 2021, on September 17, Dr Tedros Ghebreyesus, Director-General of the World Health Organization, said that every minute, five patients die because of unsafe care.
I remember having a conversation with a friend who used to be a lab technician in a clinic in one of the rural areas of Nasarawa State, Nigeria years ago. We were talking about blood donation and he said the clinic used to need blood for their patients and would often go to the locals and offer them money to donate blood after checking if they have enough to donate. So I asked, hope you guys screen the blood for infections and diseases like hepatitis that is passed through blood transfusion and sadly, he said NO.
This same unsafe practice and so much more goes on in many clinics and health care centres around the world. The patient may be unaware of the process through which the blood is gotten but it is up to the medical practitioners to ensure that the patient is safe at all costs because you cannot be trying to revive a patient by giving them infected blood only for them to wake up to some other disease that would not have happened if proper procedures were followed.
World Patient Safety Day is a campaign to improve patient safety in every country and locality worldwide. Many undesirable events can be traced back to errors arising from the mishaps that happen within hospitals as well as hospital-acquired infections.
This year’s patient safety day is themed ‘act now for safe and respectful child birth’. Approximately 810 women die every day from preventable causes related to pregnancy and childbirth. Also, about 6,700 newborns die every day because of this.
I bet a lot of people go to the hospital with the mindset that they are in a safe space, going to get proper care and treatment. It is safe quite alright but imagine the number of people who come in there with different diseases and infections. That is why it is important to ensure hospitals are safe, both environmentally and reducing human and machine errors to the barest minimum.
Why Does It Look Unsafe In Hospitals?
Patient safety is a major challenge and there are several reasons why patients get harmed in hospitals.
Health worker fatigue: health workers were overwhelmed during the covid outbreak because it was an unexpected occurrence. When health workers are fatigued, both the workers and patients are put at risk because they are likely to ignore simple procedures of wearing gloves and masks. Organization and management issues, such as overtime requirements; the nature of the work and personal challenges are responsible for health worker fatigue.
Stress: overstressed health workers are likely to make errors and offer less quality care to patients.
Lack of teamwork: proper communication between clinical and non-clinical staff is essential as it minimizes adverse events caused by miscommunication and mismanagement.
Poor communication: ineffective communication within the system can wreak a lot of havoc. Just imagine when a nurse does not hear the appropriate prescription for a patient or when there is no follow up note as to what a patient was diagnosed for. Medical errors are bound to happen and this further makes the hospital unsafe.
How To Improve Patient Safety
Provide regular training for health workers: just like every other profession, there needs to be training and re-training for medical practitioners to be updated with new trends and better alternatives to protect patients and reduce the risk of harm.
Jump on verified and approved technology that could improve detection of ailment and possible treatment.
Health workers must know they play a vital role in society and as a matter of fact, their actions and inaction can determine if a person survives. Hence the need to give optimum care and service.
Errors are likely to occur when there’s no teamwork. Every health worker has a part to play, both in large or small hospitals. Errors can easily be caught and reported. That’s why there must be a procedure, a process to reduce dangers that may arise from the nonchalant attitude of one health worker.
We can talk about patient safety over and over but if policies are not put in place to ensure things work, no one can really be safe.
Nigeria’s health care system is in shambles and it seems like no one is even concerned because the rich and well-to-do can easily go on medical tourism in more advanced countries. There’s been a lot of mishaps and preventable deaths from minor things like mixing up patient medication, errors in diagnosis and misdiagnosis, reusing syringes because they are saving cost, unchecked blood transfusion etc.
If the government can make the health sector a priority, it will go a long way in ensuring patient safety is given a priority.
Many health workers have pledged to perform their roles in making sure every patient they encounter is safe but they cannot do this on their own, health workers are regular human beings who have personal issues to worry about, they can only play their part if they have a conducive working environment, required machines and technology as well as proper remuneration
This article is meant to make patients aware that they deserve to be cared for and to advocate for the health workers /providers who constantly put their lives on the line to ensure they save lives and provide effective health care.
This is the 3rd world patient safety day, show your support and speak up for patient safety.