World Patient Safety Day: WHO calls for maternity and neonatal safety

Gloria Essien, Abuja


The World Health Organization (WHO) has encouraged health care providers, leaders and health workers all across the world to embrace five World Patient Safety Day goals for 2021.

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The goals are meant to improve maternal and neonatal safety at the time of service especially during birth.

A statement made available in Abuja, says, “The 5 World Patient Safety Day Goals 2021 aim to improve maternal and newborn safety at the point of care and to accelerate action towards the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) of reducing maternal mortality and ending avoidable deaths of newborns by 2030.

“The goals are to: Reduce unnecessary and harmful practices to women and newborns during childbirth; Strengthen capacity of and support to health workers for safe maternal and newborn care; Promote respectful care for safe childbirth; Improve safe use of medication and blood transfusion during childbirth; and Report and analyze safety incidents in childbirth”.

The goals will be launched on 17 September on World Patient Safety Day on the topic of this year’s Virtual Global Conference “Together for safe and respectful maternity and neonatal care.”

The WHO Country Representative in Nigeria, Dr Walter Kazadi Mulombo said that every day, over 800 mothers and 6700 babies die as a result of complications during childbirth.

He also said that nearly 5 400 babies are stillborn every day, with 40% of these deaths related to labour and childbirth.

The majority of stillbirths, maternal and infant fatalities, and harm can be avoided if safe, respectful, and high-quality care is provided during pregnancy, childbirth, and the early days of life”. Dr. Mulombo said.

The WHO also urged health care facility leaders, managers and health workers to sign up to these goals on an online platform recently created by WHO.

According to the Country Rep, “This year’s theme highlights the need to prevent harm to women and babies that occur due to unsafe maternal and newborn care during pregnancy, delivery and the first few days of life, a burden that has been compounded by the disruption of health services due to COVID-19.

He stressed that unsafe care includes issues such as delayed and incorrect diagnosis; patient misidentification; medication errors; anesthesia and surgical errors; unsafe transfusion and injection practices; lack of infection control practices; unnecessary interventions and mistreatment.

Despite the progress made in reducing maternal and newborn mortality and illness since 1990, the world is far from achieving the targets laid out in the SDGs. The SDGs 2015-2030 prioritize maternal mortality reduction, with a global average maternal mortality target of less than 70 per 100,000 live births and a supplementary national target that no country should have an MMR greater than 140 per 100,000 live births by 2030. A major reason for not achieving this target is a failure to address unsafe and poor-quality care”. He said.

He noted that, “Ensuring patient safety is fundamental to strengthening quality health care systems and achieving universal health coverage. At the same time, it is crucial to engage pregnant women, partners and families, and build sufficient and competent health workforces that are supported by adequate resources, safety culture and safe working environments. A network for improving quality of care for maternal, newborn and child health was established by WHO with a number of governments, implementation partners and funding agencies working together to ensure that every pregnant woman, newborn and child receives safe and quality care with equity and dignity.

World Patient Safety Day 2021 is dedicated to safe maternal and newborn care to reinforce these efforts further. With its slogan ‘Act now for safe and respectful childbirth!’, WHO is calling on stakeholders to establish or accelerate existing efforts related to safe and respectful childbirth”, he stated .

He also said that WHO is working with countries to implement the WHO Global Patient Safety Action Plan 2021–2030.

We praise Government of Nigeria’s effort in establishing the Patient bill of right and efforts to develop a National Patient safety policy. WHO is also providing support to Government of Nigeria to develop a national quality policy and strategy that will ensure quality of care provided to patients including pregnant women and their newborn babies. In the past 3 years, WHO has been providing technical support to the government as part of the WHO-led Quality, Equity and Dignity (QED) network with the aim of halving maternal and newborn mortality by 2030. So far, 112 Health facilities across 12 States and FCT are on the network with the support of WHO and other development partners. There have been demonstrable results in not just reducing maternal and newborn mortality but also improving the experience of care of mothers when they access care in health facilities”. He noted.

World Patient Safety Day, established by the World Health Assembly in 2019, aims to increase public awareness and engagement, enhance global understanding, and work towards global solidarity and action by countries and partners to promote safety in health care.

So, this World Patient Safety Day, I encourage all stakeholders – governments, civil society, the private sector, health workers and communities – to speak up for patient safety and to act now for safe and respectful childbirth” Dr. Mulombo added.

The theme for this year 2021 is “safe maternal and new-born care” with a campaign to “act now for safe and respectful childbirth”.

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