Kampala — "As we mark this year's World Patient Safety Day, it is imperative to note that the current COVID-19 pandemic poses huge challenges and risks to health workers in Uganda, and globally. Working in stressful environments makes health workers more prone to errors which might occasionally cause bodily harm to patients," said Dr Diana Atwine, the Permanent Secretary, Ministry of Health, Uganda as the country commemorated World Patient Safety Day 2020.
Held under the theme Health Worker Safety: A Priority for Patient Safety, Dr Atwine went on to note that health workers are grappling with unprecedented challenges including healthcare-associated infections, violence, stigma, psychological and emotional disturbances, illness, and death.
In Uganda, as of 16 September 2020, more than 250 health care workers have been infected with COVID-19, out of the overall national tally of 5,123, accounting for 4.9% of all reported cases. This is a clear indication that indeed in health service delivery, front-line health workers are at a greater risk of infection because of the nature of their work.
Out of this realization and concern for the safety of health workers, the Ministry of Health put in place a Patient Rights and Responsibilities Charter 2019 - an official document that offers guidance on various patient rights and responsibilities in the national health care system. Prominent in the document is the notion of human dignity and the provision of moral ground towards improving standard health services in the country.
It is against that background that Dr Atwine implored health facility managers to develop a patient safety culture in health facilities where the patient is treated as a partner and health workers are trained and empowered to reduce patient harm and the risk of errors.
"I call on policymakers in Uganda to make patient safety a national health care priority and I ask our academicians and researchers to generate more evidence-based approaches which can be used to keep patients safe", she added.
Dr Bayo Fatunmbi who represented WHO at the commemoration held at the Ministry of Health headquarters highlighted the spirit and intent of World Health Assembly resolution (WHA60.26) that urged the Member States "to work towards full coverage of all workers, particularly those in the informal sector, agriculture, small enterprises and migrant workers with essential interventions and basic occupational health services for primary prevention of occupational and work-related diseases and injuries."
"Patient safety is a priority for WHO because to realize quality health care, the first step is to not harm, yet in hospitals in low- and middle-income countries globally, every year, there are 134 million adverse events due to unsafe care, contributing to 2.6 million lives lost," he said.
"I call on all of us to work together to protect health workers, so they can protect patients, in supportive, enabling environments for the delivery of quality health care," Dr Bayo added.
To protect health workers from COVID-19 and contribute to enhanced patient safety, in collaboration with partners and the Ministry of Health, WHO has trained 43,500 health workers in 2900 Health Facilities in 58 districts in infection prevention and control and plans are underway to train another 33,950.
In addition, Personal Protective Equipment has been provided to various health centres and guidance documents on best care practices have been developed to support the creation of enabling environments for the safety of health workers and patients.
As part of the commemoration and for the first time, Uganda lit the iconic Jinja Nile bridge in Orange to symbolize the central role patient safety plays in the country's efforts to achieve patient safety. Lighting the bridge is a symbolic recognition of health workers' efforts in Uganda and globally to provide safe healthcare every day for all patients.
Source: World Health Organization (Geneva)