Serious infection problems

According to the World Health Organization, unsafe surgery around the world has a mortality rate up to 10 times that of maternal mortality. Many of these deaths occur in the developing world due to a lack of basic training in safe surgery practice.

If you wanted to cut infection rate down in your local hospital by 50%, how would you do it? A simple “Safe Surgery” checklist combined with training in better communication skills is helping hospitals in the developing world do just that. Mercy Ships trains local surgeons, anaesthetists, and theatre nurses to use this simple checklist effectively to make surgery safer:

1. Confirm the identity of the patient and procedure

2. Make a risk assessment for placement of a breathing tube

3. Make a risk assessment for blood loss

4. Use a pulse oximeter to measure oxygen levels in patient’s bloodstream

5. Give antibiotics at the right time

6. Count sponges and instruments at the end of the case

According to Michelle White, a volunteer anaesthetist from the UK, who is helping Mercy Ships promote this checklist in each country, this simple change can have a bigger impact on patient safety than any new medication or piece of equipment.

And it’s good news because five out of the six steps require no increase in resources. It simply means improving teamwork and communication. “The doctors and nurses I meet in Africa want to be able to help themselves and help their patients – she said. “This checklist proves they can.”