At least one in 10 people hospitalised worldwide experience safety failure or adverse event, the Director-General of the World Health Organisation (WHO) Tedros Ghebreyesus said on Thursday.
Mr Ghebreyesus, while speaking at a press briefing to mark the World Patient Safety Day, said globally, patients are harmed every second of every hour in every day of the year.
“No one should be harmed while seeking healthcare,” Mr Ghebreyesus said.
The World Patient Safety Day is marked annually on 17 September to increase public awareness and engagement, enhance global understanding and spur global solidarity and action to promote patient’s safety.
This year’s theme, ‘Health Worker Safety: A priority for patient safety’, is a strong reminder of the vital role health workers play in relieving sufferings of patients and saving lives, Mr Ghebreyesus said.
“The COVID-19 pandemic has reminded all of us of the vital role health workers play to relieve suffering and save lives. No country, hospital or clinic can keep its patients safe unless it keeps its health workers safe,” the WHO chief said.
He said the pandemic has also highlighted the extent to which protecting health workers is key to ensuring a functioning health system and a functioning society.
The WHO chief noted that COVID-19 has exposed health workers and their families to unprecedented levels of risk.
He said data from many countries across WHO regions indicate that COVID-19 infections among health workers are far greater than those in the general population.
Mr Ghebreyesus noted that although health workers represent less than 3 per cent of the population in the large majority of countries and less than 2 per cent in almost all low- and middle-income countries, around 14 per cent of COVID-19 cases reported to WHO are among health workers.
“In some countries, the proportion can be as high as 35 per cent. Thousands of health workers infected with COVID-19 have lost their lives worldwide,” he said.
Healthcare workers are at risk of exposure to COVID-19 virus as they are the first responders to patients.
He urged governments and health care leaders to address persistent threats to the health and safety of health workers and patients.
Universal Health Coverage
In her remarks, the WHO Regional Director for Africa, Matshidiso Moeti, said patient safety is an essential component in strengthening health systems to achieve universal health coverage.
“This requires collaboration and open communication between multidisciplinary health-care teams, patients and patients’ organizations, professional associations and other stakeholders,” Ms Moeti said.
She said action is needed to understand the magnitude of patient harm, including through transparent incident reporting to learn from mistakes with no-fault and no-blame handling of adverse events.
The regional director noted that patients and their families must be enabled to take preventive measures to reduce risks to all individuals, including people with disabilities and older people.
Ms Moeti urged everyone to work together to protect health workers, so they can protect patients, in supportive, enabling environments for the delivery of quality health care.