Killing germs to save lives

All over the world the WHO safe surgery checklist is being used to save lives by preventing many of the common surgical complications that can develop. Worldwide mortality rates are being cut by around 47% and infection rates by 35% through the use of the checklist. Most hospitals in developing nations have only very basic sterilization equipment so correct training is also vital to ensure surgical instruments are germ free.

“The sterilization course has been a very big help to me – I’ve come to understand that when it comes to surgical procedures, we need to really sterilize all instruments and also protect ourselves from contamination. It’s really important to me and to the whole hospital to understand how to take care of the equipment properly,” says Comfort, a sterilization nurse at a local hospital in Cameroon.

The WHO safe surgery checklist is another tool that helping surgical teams around the world reduce surgical complications. It is actually just a simple list of questions that remind each member of the surgical team what checks need to be performed. Simple procedures like counting all the surgical equipment and supplies after surgery to ensure nothing has been left inside the patient, or checking to ensure patients have received antibiotics, can save lives even in the worlds most advanced hospitals.

The Africa Mercy’s hospital director was recently in Madagascar to check on how local hospitals were doing; almost two years after the ship left. To her delight, she was told that surgical infection rates had dropped from 28% to 14%, since Mercy Ships had trained regional hospital staff to use the WHO safe surgical checklist. A 50% reduction in infections is a terrific improvement and is also testimony to the dedication of the local medical staff, who continue to put into practice what they have learnt.