‘Speak up for patient safety’ and ‘No one should be harmed in health care’ are calls to action by the World Health Organization (WHO) as part of World Patient Safety Day that will be held on the 17th of September.

Because the patient is at the centre of everything we do at ER24, we are committed to patient safety and are joining WHO by creating awareness around the cause. In fact, the safety of our patients is so important to us that it forms part of our five organisational values.

According to WHO, “patient safety is the absence of preventable harm to a patient during the process of health care and reduction of risk of unnecessary harm associated with health care to an acceptable minimum. Every point in the process of care-giving contains a certain degree of inherent unsafety.”

“Emphasis is placed on a system of care delivery that prevents errors, learns from the errors that do occur, and is built on an organisational culture to support patient safety,” says Dr Robyn Holgate, ER24’s chief medical officer. “Our patient safety practice forms the foundation of our clinical quality initiatives. Examples include education, training, and protocol development, and an escalation process when on scene for clinical advice by our doctor and paramedic leaders. Retrospectively, we have a confidential reporting system for adverse events, and the emphasis during our reviews has shifted from a traditional model of blame to that of a just culture. We take every reported incident seriously, the ultimate goal being to conclude our investigation and implement quality improvement initiatives to ensure change and avoid a recurrence of such events.”

“Patient safety is more than ‘do no harm’”, says Ryan Wills, training manager in emergency medical care and an ER24 skills development facilitator, with Mediclinic Southern Africa. “Patient safety is ensuring our organisational structure and clinical policies enable safe patient care by design, that our employees are provided with opportunity to remain abreast with trends in emergency care, that our clinical procedures are clear and well-practised, and that our culture is one of putting the patient- and the care they receive – first.”

“I’m privileged to work in an organisation where I can think of multiple initiatives where safety has been prioritised,” says Dr Holgate. An example includes ER24’s response to violence directed towards our ambulance crew. Our operational staff have attended the EMSHE (Emergency Medical Services in a Hostile Environment) course, and all our vehicles are fitted with panic buttons.

“Road traffic accidents and vehicle safety are a priority for us,” says Dr Holgate. “We’ve gone the extra mile to ensure our patients’ comfort and safety by utilising state-of-the-art stretchers in our custom-made ambulances.”

Patient safety can be implemented in different ways - not just physically. Patient safety also includes the rights of patients, which include the right to know the name of his/her treating practitioner, having clear communication at all times, the right to medical care, and to feel physically and emotionally safe during possibly one of the worst times of their lives.

We will continue to put our patients first, and we strive to remain the premier emergency medical care provider in South Africa.