Negligence in hospitals and quest for patients’ safety

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Abuja.

In every profession the practitioners are bound to make mistakes. A tailor, out of negligence, may make a mistake while cutting materials same as a plumber while fixing the pipes.

However, while some mistakes and negligence in some professions can be tolerated, in other professions, it could be fatal and irredeemable.

In this category are medical and health workers. Negligence on their part can lead to devastating consequences for patients and their loved ones.

Medical negligence, according to the Free Dictionary, is the improper, unskilled, or negligent treatment of a patient by a physician, dentist, nurse, pharmacist or other health care professional.

It underscores the critical need for healthcare providers to prioritise patient safety, maintain stringent standards of care, and foster a culture of accountability.

Patient safety refers to efforts and measures taken to ensure the safety, well-being, and quality of healthcare services provided to patients.

It encompasses various aspects such as preventing medical errors, reducing harm, improving communication, promoting patient empowerment, and establishing a culture of patient safety within healthcare facilities.

On the occasion of World Patient Safety Day, with the theme: “Engaging patients for patient safety”. The theme was selected in recognition of the crucial role patients, families and caregivers play in the safety of health care.

Ms Nkechi Akande, 39, is a school teacher wen to hospital for a surgical procedure, unaware of the challenges that awaited her.

Akande alleged that due to negligence, her condition took a turn for the worse, plunging her into a nightmare she never anticipated.

“During my hospital stay, my vital signs were not adequately monitored, medications were administered incorrectly, and post-operation care was inadequate.

“As a result, my health rapidly deteriorated, and I experienced severe complications. What should have been a straightforward procedure turned into a journey of pain, multiple corrective surgeries, and an arduous recovery process,” she narrated.

She said that the impact of this went beyond the physical realm, affecting her mental and emotional well-being.

“Anxiety, depression, and a loss of trust in the healthcare system became her constant companions. However, I decided to transform my harrowing experience into a catalyst for change.

“Driven by a desire to prevent others from enduring a similar ordeal, I became an advocate for patient safety,” said Akende who is now a health care safety advocate.

She has been sharing her story, raising awareness about the importance of proper hospital protocols, staff training, and patient empowerment.

“Collaborating with patient safety organisations, I have dedicated myself to ensuring that hospitals prioritize patient well-being and implement robust measures to prevent future incidents,” she said.

Akande’s story serves as a poignant reminder of the devastating impact hospital negligence can have on Nigerians and their families.

Although she has been vocal about her experience, hers is almost a common development in many hospitals nationwide most of which have gone unnoticed.

According to experts, the emerging concern of patient safety in the country has been described due to its large population.

This calls for effective patient safety policies and infrastructure to address quality issues in healthcare.

While patient safety received attention during the COVID-19 pandemic, particularly in areas such as sanitation and infection control this focus has declined and COVID-19 threat diminishes.

Although some patients or their loved ones have gone to the court to seek redress when they think their safety has been compromised, most others just move on with their lives.

However, legal experts say the Nigeria’s laws also protect the rights of patients to safety.

Dr Henry Okeke, Lecturer, International Law &Jurisprudence Department, Faculty of Law, Nnamdi Azikiwe University, said Nigeria is a common law country which has been adopted common law principles in its medico-legal considerations.

“It is true that there exist health regulatory framework and that such regulatory services can be extended to the administration of Patient safety related matters?

“Of course, any health law that promotes the wellbeing of the patient is considered as promoting patient safety, except that it may not optimally regulate liabilities arising out of patient safety-related offences and matters,” he explained.

Okeke, therefore, urged Nigerian legislators pass more laws that would strengthen the safety patients and overall quality of health care delivery in the country.

Ducit Blue Solutions, an organisation which seeks to enhance quality service delivery and patient safety in Nigeria, said that patient safety was essential for the quality and effectiveness of healthcare services.

The Foundation said that to ensure safe healthcare practices in the country, the government and other key health players should establish a Patient Safety Programme Board that oversees the strategic delivery of education.

“They should also provide adequate and high-quality educational resources and train staff to practise safely,” it said in a report.

But government says it is taking steps to address the challenges.

Dr Shetak Gilbert, Head of Patient Safety/Oxygen, Federal Ministry of Health (FMOH), said that Nigeria has developed the first ever National Policy and Implementation Strategy on Patient Safety and care quality.

Gilbert said the policy is in line with the Resolution 18 of the 55th World Health Assembly (WHA 55.18) which called for member states to recognise the burden of patient safety and to set up policies to manage them.

“The National Patient Safety and Care Quality policy focuses on improving different aspects of patient safety including family engagement in health care, medication safety, surgical safety, infection prevention and control (IPC) etc. etc.

“The document aligned with the FMOH four-point agenda: improving quality of health governance in Nigeria and improving population health outcomes.

It is also in line with medical industrialisation-the value chain of the health sector; and improving health security- preparatory response to public health threats,” he explained.

According to the Chairman National Advocates for Health (NA4H), Mohammed Usman, the Nigerian healthcare system recognise the importance of patient safety and has made efforts to address this issue.

“The Federal Ministry of Health and Social Welfare, in collaboration with other stakeholders, has developed policies and guidelines to improve patient safety standards and practices in the country,” he said.

Usman said it was important to note that while efforts were being made to improve patient safety in the country there was still plenty of work to be done.

“Challenges such as limited resources, inadequate infrastructure, and systemic issues can hinder progress.

“However, with ongoing commitment, collaboration, and implementation of evidence-based practices, Nigerian patient safety can continue to improve, ensuring better healthcare outcomes for all patients,” he explained.

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