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Health & Fitness

Speaking up for safety in healthcare facilities

patient safety
Poor patient safety and lack of standards go hand in hand. FILE PHOTO | NMG 

In May of 2019, the World Health Assembly agreed to have the World Patient Safety Day to be celebrated globally to raise awareness on patient safety and encourage global solidarity and action towards this end.

September 17 marks the first “World Patient Safety Day” globally with the chosen cry, “Speak up for patient safety!”. The day raises awareness on “prevention of errors and adverse effects to patients associated with health care”.

As more patients gain access to health services, our impoverished health system gets further strained, especially in resource constrained setups. This amplifies marginal errors causing unintended harm to patients and multiplying the cost of care arising from errors.

In the wake of a recently released local report suggesting deficiencies and variance in diagnostic and care provision across the country, there is need for us to take a pause and deliberate on the subject: what more can we do to further improve the safety of our patients? The WHO contends that Low and Middle Income Countries LMICs in which Kenya falls, have two thirds of the global burden of patient harm. Though local statistics are not readily available, it was estimated that a European nation had about 10 percent of adverse events arising from hospital admissions. Quite high by any standard and possibly worse for our setup.

Risks of unintended patient harm however do not just occur in the hospital, but begin outside. In Kenya, medication related patient-harm is a big contributor and stems from unregulated self-medication, bad prescription practices, substandard medicines, unsafe administration of drugs by medics, as well as other medication related issues like over-medication and self-inflicted fatal dosages of prescribed drugs.

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A few initiatives are trying to address the issue. One report, “’Exploring patient participation in reducing health-care-related safety risks”, recommends patients take an active role as part of the solution. Because the biggest commodity health providers offer is trust, we must strive to maintain our ability, noble intentions and desires to help patients. Poor patient safety and lack of standards go hand in hand.

To address the problem, experts advocate for a systemic evaluation of the root causes. The starting point is good training of medics, equipping them with the right diagnostic tools, employing adequate numbers, maintenance of norms and standards in facilities, regular inspection and supervision as well inculcating a culture of patient safety.

As far as standards of care are concerned, last month, the President assented to the Kenya Accreditation Services Act 2019.

Among some of the things it seeks to achieve, is promotion of accreditation for the facilitation of trade and the enhancement of health, safety, and the competence and equivalence of accredited bodies.

For safe healthcare, accreditation and standardisation of care play a big role. Empowering patient in the care cycle and adopting outcomes measurement as tools to assess and audit health service is a recommend.

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