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India: When a ‘never event’ hits a patient

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A young woman was left with a retained foreign object, after surgery in an India hospital. A checklist could have avoided her death. The response from the health officials was: “We have issued a show-cause notice to the staff seeking an explanation. We will initiate departmental action based on their replies and finding of our inquiry.”

In the fields of healthcare quality and patient safety, such punitive measures of “naming and shaming” have not worked.

T.S. Ravikumar, President, AIIMS Mangalagiri, Andhra Pradesh, moved back to India eight years ago with the key motive to improve accountability and safety in healthcare delivery. He believes that we have a long way to go in reducing “preventable harm” in hospitals and the health system in general.  "We need to move away from fixing blame, to creating a 'blame-free culture' in healthcare, yet, with accountability. This requires both systems design for safe care and human factors engineering for slips and violations".

"Providing safe care without harm is a 'team sport', and we need to work as teams and not in silos, with mutual respect and ability to speak up where we observe any deviation or non-compliance with rules, says Ravikumar. Basic quality tools and root-cause analysis for adverse events must become routine. Weekly mortality/morbidity conferences are routine in many countries, but not a routine learning tool in India.

He proposes acceleration of the recent initiative of the DGHS of the Government of India to implement a National Patient Safety Framework, and set up an analytical “never events” or sentinel events reporting structure.

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Source: The Hindu, 12 January 2020

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