Minister of Health, Mr Kwaku Agyeman-Manu has urged all agencies under the health sector to align their policies and programmes with the National Healthcare Policy.
He said this would ensure the sustainable achievement of the set goals of the national policy, which includes Universal Health Coverage (UHC) and high-quality healthcare delivery and eventually, the Sustainable Development Goals.
The Health Minister made the call in a speech read on his behalf at the third National Patient Safety and Healthcare Conference 2021, held in Accra on the theme: “No Quality, No Coverage. Safe Maternal and Newborn Care Now”.
The occasion also celebrated the ‘Patient Safety Day’ which is held annually on September 17, as a special day to create awareness about patient safety.
Mr Agyeman-Manu highlighted the fact that the Covid-19 pandemic has exposed some of the areas in the healthcare system that had weaknesses, but fortunately, a lot of these issues have been articulated in the National Healthcare Policy.
He said the Ministry is committed to high standards of patient safety as a component of quality, and said as the government indicated in its Agenda 111, not only would it focus on coverage, but also quality.
He, however, hinted that in recent years, the number of cases of medical negligence is rising, not because some patients and families are becoming too conscious of their rights, but also because not much focus has been given to these areas.
He called for the support of the media in educating the public on patient safety and advocating for high standards of care within the country’s health care delivery system, especially for vulnerable groups such as pregnant women and children.
The Minister also reminded the public that the Covid-19 was still around, hence the need for all to continue adhering to all the safety and hygiene protocols to help win the fight.
The Director-General of the Ghana Health Service (GHS), Dr Patrick Kuma-Aboagye said it is gratifying that the this year’s celebration is shining light on maternal and newborn safety, and recounted the many efforts made by the GHS in terms of guidelines, Code of Conduct and patient safety, but stressed that the problem is how to ensure implementation.
He took participants through the importance of the network of practices as a way of achieving UHC, and the synergy between institutional care and family health.
Queen mother of Bekwai and President of the Queen mothers Foundation, Nana Ama Serwaa Bonsu, also highlighted the need for compassion or professionalism, saying the common causes of medical error is poor communication and stressed the need to improve it.
She said most patients often mix orthodox medicines with herbal preparations, thus there was the need to ensure that communication is clear in terms of what to do to prevent health complications.
She further urged healthcare professionals to learn not to condemn and to recognise the importance of confidentiality and privacy of patients.
WHO Country Representative, Dr Francis Kasolo said globally, 2.6 million people die annually due to medical errors, and that many of these errors are preventable, especially if best practices are scaled up at the point of use, and expressed the WHO’s commitment to support GH in its efforts.
The USAID recalled the progress that Ghana has made, but said there is the need to do more, indicating that although the country had improved in coverage, it had not improved in quality, and stressed three areas that needed focus and attention.
These are patient-centred care, integrated health services, and sustainable health finance.
President of Ghana Registered Nurses and Midwives Association (GRNMA), Mrs Perpetual Ofori-Ampofo, said though patient safety is the core duties of nurses and midwives, these patients are safest in the hands of skilled professionals.
She said there is the need to pay much attention to advancing the skills and quality of nursing and midwifery professionals, saying “the days of auxiliary nurses should be over”.
The GRNMA President also lobbied for the colleges, calling for the need to pay attention to quality care and help nurses and midwives to acquire post-graduate qualifications.
She also pointed out the importance of changing the narrative of nursing or midwifery to a point where people could now say that “not only are our Ghanaian nurses competent but they are also compassionate”.
Dr Justice Yankson, the General Secretary of the Ghana Medical Association, said though there has been great progress in terms of patient safety, there is still a lot of work to be done.
“Generally, we do not have a safety culture in our health facilities”, citing inadequate funding, poorly trained health workers, limited resources and infrastructure.
He said the Covid-19 pandemic has taught the country a lesson that achieving patient safety is impossible without first attending to health workers safety, therefore it is important to make this a priority.
Meanwhile, a representative from the World Bank, said though Ghana is well-positioned, the government must move beyond coverage and the number of hospitals built, to ensure that the quality of care provided is of high standard.
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