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Health workers advocate safety at facility design stage

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Occupational Health and Safety Managers (OHSM) during the celebration of World Patient Safety Day (WPSD) in Abuja recently.

As Nigeria joined the rest of the world to mark World Patient Safety Day 2020, health workers have advocated safety at the design stage of all healthcare facilities.

They observed that poor infrastructural design in most healthcare facilities posed levels of risk to healthcare workers.

They noted that some multiple floors facilities had neither elevators nor ramps, and workers were expected to lift patients or in some instances, support patients walking through the stairs, which could lead to slips, trips, and falls, leaving both healthcare workers and patients with bodily harm.
 
Already, the Bureau for Labour Statistics in 2007 stated that slips, trips, and falls were the second most common causes of injuries in hospitals, where incident rates for healthcare workers are 90 per cent greater than the average for all private industries.
 
At this year’s celebration in Abuja, recently, Ambassador, Patient Safety Movement Foundation, Ehi Iden, who spoke on, “Healthcare Workers Safety: A Priority for Patient Safety,” appealed to employers of labour within the healthcare sector, the government, and regulatory agencies to look closely into the issues of healthcare workers’ safety and protection.

 
Noting that the work environment was highly infectious, he said what was needed was mitigation in form of safe process designs, improved hygiene practices, use of personal protective equipment, and vaccination of healthcare workers against infectious diseases with existing vaccines.
 
Stressing that this year’s theme could not have come at a better time, Iden argued that in most cases, healthcare employers never braced up to their responsibilities in this regard.

He said: “So obvious is the absence of duty of care from the employers. If you recall the Ebola outbreak in West Africa in 2014, over 378 healthcare workers were infected, while 196 healthcare workers’ deaths were recorded. When you again juxtapose that with the report from the World Health Organisation (WHO), in July 2020, over 10,000 healthcare workers have been infected in Africa by COVID-19. That report also mentioned that only 16 per cent of the 30,000 facilities surveyed had assessment scores of up to 75 per cent. This further explains how vulnerable healthcare workers are to infectious risks in their workplaces, and the need to fix this system towards improving the rate of patient safety and treatment outcomes.

“Our recommendations, as we mark this year’s, World Patient Safety Day, start with the advocacy for the right kind of leadership in healthcare systems globally, and empathy being an integral part of our healthcare systems. There is a need to stop the existing defensive culture and replace it with a “just and transparent culture void of blame-game and owns up to respond when things go wrong. Remember, we are only human and everyone is fallible. To err is human,” he said.

Iden, therefore, called for the review of existing legislation and the need for policymakers to stand up for change, while healthcare technology companies make the change by designing safe equipment, using safe new technologies.

 
He added: “We need healthcare providers to be the change through competency improvement and due consideration for patient safety so that patients and their relatives can experience that change.
 
“If we need patients to be at the centre of their care, if it is all about their health and wellbeing, they should be involved in treatment decisions as it concerns their health. Advocacy for patient-centred care is imminent.”
 
The event was jointly organised in Nigeria, by the Occupational Health and Safety Managers (OHSM), Medical and Health Workers Union of Nigeria (MHWUN), OSHAfrica, International Trade Union Congress (ITUC-Africa), Nigeria Labour Congress (NLC), Patient Safety Movement Foundation (PSMF), and the World Health Organisation (WHO).

 Already, the International Labour Organisation (ILO), had said the World Day for Safety and Health at Work would focus on addressing the outbreak of infectious diseases at work, focusing on the COVID-19 pandemic.
The Director-General of ILO, Guy Ryder, said the aim was to stimulate national tripartite dialogue on safety and health at work.
 According to him, the ILO is using the day to raise awareness on the adoption of safe practices in workplaces, and the role that occupational safety and health (OSH) services play.
 He said the day also focused on the medium to long-term, including recovery and future preparedness, in particular, and integrating measures into OSH management systems and policies at the national and enterprise levels.
 


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