If there’s anything COVID-19 and the ongoing pandemic have taught us, it’s that healthcare worker safety is as much a priority as patient safety. Since the outbreak of the highly contagious virus started, many healthcare workers around the world have contracted the illness, and a good number have lost their lives in the line of duty.
World Patient Safety Day, an annual campaign endorsed by the 194 Member States of the World Health Organization in May 2019, carries the 2020 theme “Health Work Safety: A Priority for Patient Safety.” Indeed, these are challenging times for healthcare workers who not only face the threat of infection, but also deal with the stigma and discrimination associated with those exposed to COVID-19. (Read: Want to show support to COVID-19 patients and frontliners? Send them greeting cards!)
“If we health care workers don’t practice patient safety, then we put our patients, as well as ourselves, at risk,” says Gernilynne Joy Ramiro-Barril, chief nurse of premier healthcare facility Centre Medicale Internationale (CMI).
On World Patient Safety Day this September 17, Nurse Joie—as she is fondly called by her peers—explains the importance of patient safety through protocols observed at CMI.
What could happen if healthcare workers don’t observe patient safety?
One common example is if a patient receives the wrong medication or expired medicine. The prescription passes through different persons—from the doctor who orders it, to the pharmacist who dispenses it, to the nurse who administers it. In this “simple” situation, an error could have been prevented if the people involved communicated well with each other and verified the medicine before giving it.
Healthcare workers who don’t practice patient safety could also put themselves at risk. This puts pressure on us to deliver outstanding care to our patients. (Read: Pope Francis Invites Family of Nurses for Meet-Up)
How do you observe patient and health worker safety at work?
Teleconsultations limit exposure between patients and frontliners. We also practice data privacy. A patient’s personal information is confidential and cannot be shared with others.
Face-to-face appointments require the standard screening protocol. If a patient’s answer in his health declaration form needs clarification—say, he is presenting symptoms of the flu or COVID-19—our Urgent Care Specialist will get in touch with him to get his complete health history. And this is where we recommend either a swab test or quarantine. Patients need to be cleared before proceeding with a face-to-face consultation.
Contact tracing is possible when a patient answers the health declaration form accurately and truthfully. In case a patient tests positive for COVID-19, we advise those he has been in contact with on the proper way to quarantine and maintain proper hygiene, as well as what to do in case they develop symptoms. We follow up on these people while they’re on quarantine, and refer them to a medical facility in case they test positive for COVID-19. (Read: Catholic Church to Implement Contact Tracing in Parishes)
Social distancing is practiced in CMI not only by patients, but by the staff as well. Two or more people cannot eat together in the pantry, and our lunches run from 10 to 15 minutes only.
Personal Protective Equipment (PPE) is worn by our doctors, dentists, and ENT (ears, nose, throat) specialists, and changed after every patient. The staff wears facemasks and face shields in and out of the premises. Patients too are required to wear facemasks and face shields during their appointment.
Alcohol and hand sanitizers are found everywhere in CMI, including the restrooms and pantry. Proper handwashing is also strictly implemented.
UV light is used to disinfect a room after a patient consultation. It takes a minimum of 15 minutes or a maximum of 1 hour to thoroughly disinfect a room with UV light. This happens after a room is thoroughly cleaned and sanitized.