Patient safety: Civil society to sensitize patients

Published in: Afrique en ligne
Issue/Volume: 09/07/08

9/7/2008 – Ms. Kaitirimba, who is the national coordinator of the Uganda National Health Consumers Organisation, told PANA on the sidelines of the just-concluded 58th session of the World Health Organisation (WHO) Regional Committee for Africa in Yaounde, Cameroon, that the plan would include a ‘patients recruitment campaign’ in the entire African region.

Ms. Kaitirimba was one of the speakers at the ceremony organised on the fringes of the WHO session to enable African Ministers to sign on to the first Global Patient Safety Challenge, ”Clean Care is Safer Care’, a flagship programme of the World Alliance for Patient Safety.

The alliance is a WHO programme, and its ‘Clean Care is Safer Care’ initiative works towards catalysing global commitment and action to reduce health-care-associated infections (HAI) worldwide.

She said in order to ensure the success of the campaign, the civil society would have to be strengthened through donor support, so it can then be able to hold the various governments to the commitments they have made regarding the campaign.

Some 39 African health ministers have signed on to the campaign, by pledging to, among others, work to reduce health care-associated infections through actions such as acknowledging the importance of health care-associated infection; enhancing ongoing campaigns at national/sub-national levels to promote and improve hand hygiene among health care providers and making reliable information available on health care associated infection at community and district levels in order to foster appropriate actions.

“With the signing of the pledge, it is now up to the civil society to hold the various governments to their commitments. But first, the civil society itself must be strengthened to enable it carry out its duties effectively,” Ms. Kaitirimba said.

She sited the current ”limping support” for the civil society by donors as inadequate.

The other Patients for Patient safety champion at the ceremony, Mr. Cosmas Kalwambo of Zambia, corroborated Ms. Kaitirimba’s statement that the civil society is presently too weak to act effectively to hold governments to their commitments.

However, he blamed the situation on lack of the necessary data to show the seriousness of the problems of health care-associated infections, especially in Africa.

”There is very few data available in this area. Without a research data proving this is big problem, international donors won’t see it as such, hence may not be inclined to supporting efforts by the civil society to help tackle the problem,” Mr. Kalwambo said.

He also expressed concern that patients were not empowered enough to challenge health care personnel who might be falling short of meeting safety procedures, saying that the current campaign seemed to be ‘more tailored to health care personnel than patients’.

According to the WHO, health care-associated infection is a global problem, with more than 1.4 million people suffering from it at any given time.

It is estimated that in hospitals in developed countries, 5% to 10% of patients acquire one or more infections in health facilities – a figure believed to be between two and 20 times higher in developing countries.