Indus, Government of Sindh, and WHO Join Hands for a Safer and Healthier Tomorrow

Karachi: More than 100 participants from different public and private healthcare organizations participated in the ‘1st National Patient Safety Conference – Patient Centered Care’ on December 2, 2021. The conference was organized by the Government of Sindh in collaboration with Indus Hospital & Health Network (IHHN) and World Health Organization (WHO).

The conference provided an opportunity to promote safety culture among healthcare providers as well as address patient safety challenges faced by public and private hospitals and the role of policymakers in combating those challenges.

Syed Ehsan Shah, Health Minister, Balochistan, was the guest of honor, while Dr. Abdur Rashid, Director, Drug Regulatory Authority Pakistan, was the keynote speaker at the conference. Dr. Sara Salman, Provincial Head of Office – Sindh, WHO was also present at the conference.

Leading healthcare experts from Pakistan included: Dr. Quaid Saeed, Chief Executive Officer, Islamabad Healthcare Regulatory Authority, Dr. Mairaj Shah, Chief Operating Officer, Secondary Hospitals Aga Khan University Hospital, Dr. Bashir Hanif, Executive Medical Director, Tabba Heart Institute, and Dr. Ahson Qavi Siddiqi, CEO, Sindh Healthcare Commission.

“We are grateful to the Government of Sindh and WHO for the tremendous support they have provided for this conference. We would also like to acknowledge the presence of policymakers in attendance. It is a great initiative that will bring change across the country,” said Dr. Abdul Bari Khan, Chief Executive Officer, IHHN.

“Patient safety is a critical global issue, and it is vital how we deal with it. Every year many patients are harmed because of unsafe practices. We are working on plans to take action in addressing the issues of patient safety. In collaboration with WHO Pakistan, the federal ministry of health is working on initiatives and national strategies that I believe will improve quality of care and expand patient safety to primary care and engage communities,” added Dr. Palitha Mahipala, Head of Mission – Pakistan, WHO while addressing the conference virtually.

Patient safety has become an essential healthcare discipline in recent times due to the complexity of healthcare systems and the rising trend of patient harm in medical facilities. Global efforts to reduce the burden of patient harm have not achieved substantial change over the past 15 years, despite pioneering work in some health care settings.

Dr. Lubna Mushtaq, Head of Department, Quality & Monitoring Directorate, IHHN said that this conference was the need of the hour. “Times are changing due to COVID-19 and the Omicron variant. This conference is the first of many to use augmented and virtual technologies to bring everyone together.”

“The purpose of the conference is to recognize the challenges each one of us faces and the uncertainty of whether we will receive proper care or not. IHHN recognizes the significance of quality of patient safety and institutional support,” she added.

Patient safety is an urgent and serious global public health concern. It is estimated that the cost of harm associated with the loss of life or permanent disability, which results in lost capacity and productivity of the affected patients and families, amounts to trillions of US dollars every year. Additionally, the psychological cost to the patient and their family (associated with the loss or disabling of a loved one), is undoubtedly significant, though more difficult to measure. Patient harm due to adverse events is one of the leading causes of morbidity and mortality worldwide. The available evidence suggests that hospitalization in low and middle income countries leads to 134 million adverse events annually, resulting in 2.6 million deaths.

Syed Ehsan Shah said that the 1st National Conference on Patient Safety gives us a chance to talk about this critical aspect of healthcare on a larger level and take urgent action to ensure patients are looked after during their hospital stay.

“I want to thank the Government of Sindh and WHO for this conference. In addition, I would like to acknowledge the organizing committee’s efforts in making this conference possible. Our purpose for this conference is to ensure a safe and secure environment for our patients with quality care. This is the first conference where we are focusing on this aspect of health care,” he said.

Shah continued, “Paramedics have the most critical role in this and require proper training to ensure that qualified professionals are at the helm and can perform an even better job. Third-world countries suffer the most from poor patient-centered care, which has resulted in over 2.5 million deaths. If we look at this closely, it is a statistical tragedy.”

“In my opinion, this is an unacceptable number, and through awareness, we can create better environments in hospitals,” he added.

Qasim Siraj Soomro, Parliamentary Health Secretary Sindh, said, “Patient-centered care is one of the key areas the Government of Sindh is focusing on. There is an enormous burden on our health sector, despite the many initiatives to address them. Our specialized areas are neglected, and the root cause for diseases like HIV and others still has more questions than answers.”

He added that through conferences such as these, they hope to make this a number one priority in hospitals.

According to GALLUP report based on Pakistan Economic Survey 2015-16, in 2015, the number of hospitals was 1,167; 5,695 dispensaries; 5,464 basic health units; 733 maternity and child health centers; 675 rural health centers; and 3339 TB centers. The utilization of this infrastructure has remained low over the years due to many reasons. Pakistan only spends 0.9% of its GDP on health public sector health expenditures while total public and private sector health expenditures of GDP is 2.4%. During the past five years, Punjab, Khyber Pakhtunkhwa, and Sindh provincial assemblies have formulated and approved Punjab and Sindh Healthcare Commission Acts to enhance patient safety and minimize adverse event by registering and licensing all healthcare facilities in Pakistan.

The conference held three sessions titled ‘access to care and health literacy, patient safety culture-leadership commitment, and patient advocacy’. The sessions given by some of the most notable names in healthcare touched about the topic of challenges of disease burden and health equity in the healthcare system of Pakistan, role of regularity authority in patient-centered care, culture of safety as a performance indicator, and building patient safety in the healthcare system among others.