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Importance of patient safety cultures, infection control in healthcare systems post-pandemic

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Building safety cultures within healthcare systems, infection control post-Covid, and new patient safety risks were discussed on Day 2 of Patient Safety Virtual 2021.

Building safety cultures within healthcare systems, infection control post-Covid, and new risks to patient safety were among the critical issues discussed on the second day of the three-day Patient Safety Virtual 2021 conference that started yesterday. 

Addressing the session “Building a patient safety culture within a large health system post-Covid”, Dr Iahn Gonsenhauser, Chief Quality & Patient Safety Officer, Ohio State University Wexner Medical Center, focused on fundamentals of creating a safe culture and strategies to identify and cope with stressful situations within the workplace.

He said: “In these times, one in five Americans suffer from significant behavioural symptoms including anxiety and depression which are the most common. We have seen during the pandemic that the number has more than doubled to about 40-45 per cent of all Americans who will be considered as clinically diagnosable behavioural health issues.”

He said safety of the workplace and culture also includes psychological safety and speaking up is fundamental to creating patient safety within an organisation. “Without those basic fundamentals, its next to impossible to create a truly communicative, holistic patient safety culture.”

Preventing the next pandemic

In the session titled “Infection Prevention and Control during the Covid-19 era and beyond”, Dr Shafi Mohammed, Director, Infection Control and Occupational Health; Co-Chairman, Infection Control Committee, Cleveland Clinic, Abu Dhabi said that the world has gone through three waves and there could be a potential fourth one if proper acts were not put in place. 

“Since the beginning of the pandemic, several public health measures have been put in place such as travel restrictions, masks and vaccinations but what is the effectiveness of these measures?”

Quoting several studies that have been carried out, Dr Mohammed said that restrictions on travel and lockdowns saw a dramatic drop in Covid cases in China and Thailand. Universal masking, especially wearing medical masks also proved to be effective against infections, according to studies. “The mathematics here is simple; the more the people wear masks, the lesser the ability of the virus to transmit.” 

Studies have also shown that the higher the number of people taking the vaccine, the reduced numbers of deaths, hospital admissions and Intensive Care Unit admissions.

The impact of Covid-19 on infection prevention and control has been huge. “We have seen dramatic changes in processes and outcomes and measures related to infection prevention and control such as the high use of hand soap and alcohol, highest use of PPEs, masks and antibiotics.”

Interestingly, he said, “there has been a slight reduction in multi-drug resistant pathogens despite an increase in the use of antibiotics, which proves that hand hygiene prevents transmission of infections.”

Returning to normal and tackling burnout

The panel discussion “Identifying and addressing new risks to patient safety (post-Covid) – do we need new strategies?” moderated by Dr Afrah Packirsaibo, Senior Conference Producer, Healthcare, Informa Markets highlighted the risks to patient safety.

Rola Hammoud, Chief Medical Executive, Clemenceau Medical Center Dubai said: “The pandemic created very high risks to the patients because the disease was new. Other risks were propagation of the infection itself which was concerning and huge and needed to be mitigated.

At the level of hospitals, we could do this by putting in place a very thorough infection control programme. Outside hospitals, the risk was very huge, and while some countries were good at mitigating, many others were not.”

Dr Ahmed Mohamed Elsheikh, Quality & Patient Safety Director, Security Forces Hospital, KSA said: “I would like to elaborate on health systems’ risks which may continue for a while because of business nature. Most of us were overlooking the burnout factor for healthcare workers during the pandemic. We were tackling two pandemics at the same time - the disease and the pandemic affecting the minds, which is burnout.”

He added: “An identified risk is also the plan to return to normal which will bring challenges of its own.”

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