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WHO calls for urgent action to reduce patient harm in healthcare

FILE PHOTO: Patient healthcare

Kampala, Uganda | THE INDEPENDENT | The World Health Organization (WHO) is urging medical professionals, policymakers, caregivers and patients to take urgent action to ensure no one is harmed while receiving treatment. The call is based on a report indicating that at least five people die every minute due to unsafe health care.

This was one of the issues that came up during the first World Patient Safety Day, which was observed on Tuesday, September 17. The objective of the day is to prevent and reduce risks, errors and harm, such as dispensing the wrong medication due to a mix-up over similar packaging.

According to the World Health Organisation, four out of every ten patients are harmed during primary and ambulatory health care. The most detrimental errors are related to diagnosis, prescription and the use of medicines.

WHO Director-General Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus says that the medical community needs to develop a patient safety culture that promotes partnership with patients, encourages reporting and learning from errors, and promote more open communication across all levels.

Dr Tedros added that countries should equally encourage a blame-free environment where Health care professionals are empowered and trained to reduce errors through training, simplifying and standardizing procedures, and ensuring a safe and clean environment.

WHO cites research which shows medication errors are estimated to cost more than USD 42 billion annually. Other challenges include healthcare-associated infections, unsafe surgical care procedures which cause complications in up to 25 per cent of patients resulting in 1 million deaths during or immediately after surgery annually, diagnostic errors, and sepsis, which causes more than five million deaths a year.

The World Health Organisation has also unveiled a campaign which calls for urgent action as patient safety is fundamental to quality essential health services. Patients can speak up by being actively involved in their health care by asking informed questions and providing full details about their medical history.

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