Globally, one in every 300 patients dies from preventable medical accidents while receiving healthcare, resulting in 2.6 million deaths every year due to unsafe healthcare. Thus, patient is safety a serious public health concern.
To increase public awareness on patient safety issues and stimulate global solidarity and action, the World Health Organisation (WHO) last year designated September 17 as World Patient Safety Day.
On this day, we celebrate patient safety because it is paramount to saving lives and contributes to the realisation of Sustainable Development Goal (SDG) number three to ensure healthy lives and promote the well-being of all people at all ages.
Realising quality healthcare requires that we do no harm to patients. This highlights the role of healthcare workers to keep patients safe. Yet patients cannot be safe if healthcare workers are not safe.
The connection of patient safety to that of healthcare workers is even greater during the Covid-19: to keep patients safe, frontline healthcare workers must be safe. This year’s theme—Health Worker Safety: A Priority for Patient Safety—casts light on this important link.
Nadu Morgan from Nkhoma in Lilongwe provides a perfect example. She has now recovered from Covid-19, thanks to quality healthcare she received from healthcare workers whose safety was strengthened to reduce their exposure to risks.
While over 41 000 health workers have been infected with Covid-19 in Africa, it is reassuring that Malawi is among countries with lower infections among healthcare workers. Rwanda has recorded no Covid-19 infections among health workers.
To protect healthcare workers from Covid-19 and contribute to enhanced patient safety, capacity building for personnel in the health sector is imperative.
This is why the United Nations (UN) in collaboration with government and other partners has been training health workers on Covid-19 infection prevention, control, treatment and other areas. This needs to be sustained.
A better working environment with adequate provision of personal protective equipment (PPE) is also crucial to reduce the risk of infection among healthcare workers.
Together with partners, the UN has been providing essential supplies, including PPE that are contributing to keeping healthcare workers and the people of Malawi safe from Covid-19.
It is essential for all healthcare workers to access and properly utilise the PPE to keep themselves and patients safe.
Besides, provision and utilisation of critical technical guidance on Covid-19 is vital for healthcare workers to provide quality care to patients and manage Covid-19 cases effectively. The health workforce has a responsibility to follow and implement all Covid-19 protocols. Any laxity by one healthcare worker puts all health personnel and patients at risk.
Other solutions for patient safety are as simple as instituting quality control systems in health facilities to help identify and fix gaps in health services.
Last year, after a quality management unit was established in Sierra Leone, deaths among children in 13 high-burden hospitals dropped from 15.6 percent in 2017 to 9.6 percent.
Better collaboration, engagement and communication among the health workers, patients, professional associations, local communities and other relevant stakeholders also improve patient safety and strengthen health care systems.
This requires efficient and transparent incident reporting mechanisms to learn from mistakes with no-fault and no-blame handling of adverse incidents.
As WHO regional director for Africa, Dr Matshidiso Moeti said in her World Patient Safety Day message, patients and their families must also be enabled to take preventive, systematic measures to participate in improving the safety of care and to reduce risks to all individuals, with special attention to at-risk groups, including people with disabilities and older people.
Covid-19 is not over yet. We must continue to practise all recommended measures to prevent a second wave of high Covid-19 infections.
It is also time for partners and national authorities to improve the resilience of the country’s health system.
Patient safety is possible if everyone contributes towards protecting health workers to deliver quality health care.