Thursday, September 16th, 2021
Government Must Prioritise Safety of Health Workers to Protect Patients During Covid-19 and Beyond
Kampala-Uganda. Center for Health, Human Rights and Development (CEHURD) and partners join the world to mark World Patient Safety Day. At a time when the healthcare system is receiving more patients, the day, which is marked every September 17th (tomorrow), is an opportunity to pause and evaluate their safety. The day has come at a time when CEHURD is running on online campaign, calling for safety in health facilities, under the hashtag, #SafetyInHealthFacilities.
This year’s theme, “safe maternal and newborn care”, is a reminder to deal with the issues mothers face in health facilities, when their safety is not taken care of.
It is estimated that on average, Uganda loses more than 300 mothers per 100,000 live births every year. Furthermore, about 200,000 children under the age of five, due to preventable causes. Considering the significant burden of risks and harm women and newborns are exposed to due to unsafe care, compounded by the disruption of essential health services caused by the COVID-19 pandemic, the campaign on safety is even more important this year.
It is imperative to note that the majority of stillbirths and maternal and new-born deaths are avoidable through the provision of safe and quality care by skilled health professionals working in supportive environments. This can only be achieved through the engagement of all stakeholders and the adoption of comprehensive health systems and community-based approaches.
The safety of patients is closely related to the safety of health workers. This has been magnified by the COVID pandemic. The COVID-19 pandemic has reminded all of us of the vital role health workers play to relieve suffering and save lives. In addition to physical risks, the pandemic has placed extraordinary levels of psychological stress on health workers exposed to high-demand settings for long hours, living in constant fear of disease exposure while separated from family and facing social stigmatisation. The World Health Organisation recently highlighted an alarming rise in reports of verbal harassment, discrimination, and physical violence against health workers in the wake of COVID-19. No country, hospital or clinic can keep its mothers and children safe without keeping its workers safe.
We therefore call on government and health care leaders to address persistent threats to health safety of health workers to ensure safe maternal and newborn care.
On this World Patient Safety Day, we remind the government that it has a legal and moral obligation to ensure the health, safety and wellbeing of health facility workers, health facility users and make child bearing a dignified process. To promote safety in health facilities, we specifically call on government to;
- Develop and implement national programmes for occupational health and safety of health workers. This will include appointment of officers specifically responsible for health and safety in health facilities, and reporting and analysing serious safety related incidents.
- Protect health workers and health users from violence in health facilities, and promote the culture of zero tolerance to violence in health facilities. This should also provide for implementation mechanisms through which survivors can easily report cases of abuse to responsible officers.
- Improve mental health psychological wellbeing of health workers. This includes maintaining appropriate safe staffing levels within health facilities, providing health related insurance to ensure coverage for work related risk, especially for those working in high-risk areas.
- Protect health workers and patients from physical and biological hazards.Ensure availability of personal protective equipment (PPE) at all times, as relevant to the roles and tasks performed, in adequate quantity and appropriate fit and of acceptable quality. Ensure an adequate, locally held, buffer stock of PPE. Ensure adequate training on the appropriate use of PPE and safety precautions.