Countries across the Africa region marked the first ever World Patient Safety Day on 17 September 2019, a day set aside by world leaders at the 72nd World Health Assembly to create awareness on patient safety and commitment towards making healthcare safer.
In Ghana, the World Patient Safety day kicked off a 3-day National Conference on Patient Safety and Healthcare Quality, from 17-19 September, organized by the Ghana Health Service in collaboration with the Ministry of Health, agencies and Health Partners, such as WaterAid and Systems for health and WHO.
With the theme: : ‘No Quality, No Coverage’; WASH/IPC in all Healthcare Facilities now’, the conference created a platform for all stakeholders to discuss Patient Safety and Healthcare Quality across Clinical, Public Health and administrative considerations in relation to Water, Sanitation and Hygiene (WASH) as well as Infection Prevention and Control (IPC). Awareness raising campaigns were also organized all around the country in health facilities with the hanging of orange balloons to commemorate the day.
The Deputy Minister for Health speaking on behalf of the Minister. Kwaku Agyemang-Manu, at the opening ceremony said government was developing a road map policy on Universal Health Coverage, which includes actions on patient safety to improve the health of the citizenry because many patients suffer avoidable harm or were put at the risk of injury while receiving healthcare. He announced that Ghana, Ethiopia and South Africa were among African countries selected to model the Africa initiative involving 10 hospitals and it was aimed at reducing avoidable harm by 25 per cent in two years.
The WHO Representative Dr Owen Laws Kaluwa in his message from the Regional Director, WHO/AFRO, said that the WHO Regional Office for Africa recognizes and places high importance on patient safety to ensure that it has the rightful prominence within health care in the region.
He said that there are many challenges in strengthening health systems to ensure patient safety in the region: (1) there is a lack of national policies, strategies, standards, guidelines and tools on safe health-care practices, and ineffective implementation where they exist; (2) inadequate funding; (3) inadequate human resources for health, weak health-care delivery systems with suboptimal infrastructure, poor management capacity and under-equipped health facilities; and (4) ineffective mechanisms for forging strong partnerships to adequately involve patients and civil society in the improvement of patient safety.
The Kingdom of Eswatini commemorated the day with the theme: “Patient Safety: a global health priority.”, “Lets speak up for patient safety!”. The theme calls for promotion of open communication for learning from errors and to emphasise the importance of patient safety, as well as increasing the voice of the patient.
A community event to commemorate the day was held at Eboli clinic, one of the high volume primary healthcare clinics in the Lubombo region. The clinic was chosen due to its high standards in providing quality healthcare services. The clinic is leading in fostering positive partnerships with the community in patient care, a practice that needs to be emulated by all health facilities in the Kingdom.
The World Patient Safety Day 2019 was also marked in Ethiopia with the slogan “Speak up for patient safety!”
Apart from press briefing, presentations and panel discussions held at the Ethiopian Public Health Institute focusing on patient safety, medication safety in health care, safe surgery practice, antimicrobial resistance and patient safety culture; a ttuaf lighting ceremony took place at the Saint Paul Hospital Millennium Medical College. The ttuaf lightening ceremony was to symbolize the color orange, which was chosen by the WHO for this International Day.
During the event, State Minister of Health, Dr. Lia Tadesse said, “The issue of patient safety deserves due attention because it is among the foremost challenges of the health sector especially in developing countries.” She added, “The best way to address this challenge is open discussion and learning from errors.”
Dr. Yakob Seman, Medical Services Director General of the MOH on his part indicated that it has been a while since the Government of Ethiopia has started to give due attention to improve patient safety at health institutions and a lot of efforts are underway in this regard.
To this line, he reiterated all development partners, academic and research institutions to be part of this national movement intended to ensure every patient’s safety and help minimize death and injury in the country. He also called upon the media to advocate for safer health care and set agenda for discussion on the importance of open discussion between patients and physicians on all issues with the potential to compromise patients’ safety.
In his key note address, Dr. Paul Mainuka, the Health Systems Strengthening Team Leader of WHO Ethiopia Country Office, emphasized the importance of the event by saying that it entails everyone to understand what patient safety means and what measures to advocate ensuring patient safety. He further emphasized, “It is essential to have strategies and organizational structure and experts who provide guidance on patient safety to ensure that the care received by patients is effective and of high quality, as well as safe.” Dr. Paul concluded by reaffirming WHO’s commitment to work with and contribute to measures that will help to improve patient safety.
The 72nd World Health Assembly decided to mark September 17 as an Annual World Patient day to create awareness of patient safety and urge the public for their commitment to making healthcare safer.
Researches confirmed that one in every 10 patients is harmed while receiving hospital care, of which at least 50 percent is preventable harm. It is also estimated that more than 1 million patients die annually across the globe from unsafe surgery.
Major medical practices and risks associated with patient safety are medication errors, health care-associated infections, unsafe surgical care procedures, unsafe injections practices, diagnostic errors, sepsis, unsafe transfusion practices, radiation errors, venous thromboembolism and unsafe care in mental health.