“There’s safety in numbers.” This tried and true piece of advice underlies Eastern Health’s integrated safety plan. The plan was originally released in 2013 under the title Safer Together, and is now being updated to align with the organization’s new Strategic Plan. It is based on the understanding that an effective safety culture, the bedrock of a safe organization, is linked to all aspects of safety – patient safety, employee health and safety, as well as safe equipment, buildings, and policies.
It follows that creating such a culture requires all health care professionals to work together towards a common goal.
Debbie Molloy, Vice President with responsibility for Quality, Patient Safety and Risk Management and Occupational Health Safety and Rehabilitation, states that it is not possible to create and maintain a culture of safety with a focus on only one area.
“We have seen that hazards, close calls, near misses, occurrences, and incidents that endanger one group may also impact the other group,” adds Ms. Molloy.
“Client safety and employee safety have traditionally been viewed as distinct and separate entities, with the result that different safety processes often compete for the attention of managers and staff – when, in reality, many of the foundational elements to improve safety are the same for both clients and employees.”
Safer Together was the organization’s first attempt to formally align its safety resources and expertise in a comprehensive way. Joining forces and working in a complementary and collaborative manner, will improve safety for the benefit of both clients and employees.
“The Integrated Safety Plan is an excellent demonstration of Eastern Health’s commitment to safety and to working together,” says Regina Coady, Director of Occupational Health, Safety and Rehabilitative Services. “We know there is a strong relationship between workplace safety and patient, resident, client safety and this plan provides a great foundation for strengthened work between all parties.”
While much work has been done to improve safety, there is more to do. The plan allows Eastern Health to build on initiatives already taken in order to make safety an everyday reality. Its purpose is to improve client and employee safety outcomes by focusing on three fundamental directions:
- Building an integrated safety strategy
- Strengthening the culture of safety
- Reducing harm and preventing injury
Bringing Eastern Health’s diverse safety management systems together to develop a common vision with shared, but distinct, goals is a Safety Network. It’s comprised of a network of safety professionals, including, but not limited to Occupational Health, Safety and Rehabilitation, Infection Prevention and Control, Clinical Services, Quality Patient Safety and Risk Management, Strategic and Operational Planning, and Infrastructure Support.This focused and shared attention to safety has the potential to be a powerful catalyst for change when it comes to improving Eastern Health’s safety culture, and building on the progress already made.
Quality Perspectives, Quality Solutions
The problem of risks and medical safety is a critical issue squarely facing health care today. Over the past two decades, there has been more recognition of the effect that frequency of errors, health care associated infections and other failures have on the delivery of health care.
Some of the most common adverse events experienced by Canadian patients and clients include receipt of a wrong medication or dose by a health professional, health care associated infections, trips and falls, and in-hospital hip fractures.
The Canadian Patient Safety Institute, Safer Health Care Now! and Accreditation Canada help facilitate best practices in health organizations and Eastern Health is no exception. Some of the major initiatives underway as outlined in the organization’s strategic plan include:
- Medication Reconciliation – whose goal is to reduce medication errors during and following an admission to hospital
- Hand Hygiene Compliance – with a goal of improving hand hygiene and environmental cleanliness throughout the organization
Other safety initiatives ongoing at Eastern Health include:
- Safe Patient/Resident Handling – with the goal of reducing employee injuries that occur while caring for patients/residents
- Falls Strategy – whose goal is to reduce falls and falls that cause harm
- MoreOB – with a goal of a safe obstetrical experience for mother and baby
Patients and clients have also acknowledged Eastern Health’s efforts.
In the first Experience of Care Survey conducted by Eastern Health during 2011-2012, respondents rated ‘concern for safety’ consistently high, with an average score of 81.2 throughout acute care inpatient, outpatient services, and emergency services.
“These numbers are encouraging to the staff and physicians at Eastern Health as we strive to provide timely and high quality care to the men, women and children that we serve,” said Michelle Ryan, Director of Quality, Safety and Risk Management.
“However, this feedback from our clients also serves to hold us accountable in areas where improvement is needed, as we continue to make safety a priority in the care we provide.” ■
This story was written by Deborah Collins, a communications manager who works with Corporate Communications in St. John’s.