Be Involved in Your Health Care

February 2012 - Sault Area Hospital (SAH) is committed to keeping patients, visitors and health care providers safe and to enhancing quality care.

Significant emphasis is placed on creating a positive patient experience and delivering the best health care every day with a focus on continuous improvement.

Your care providers work hard to ensure that every patient has a safe hospital stay and a positive outcome. However, there is always some risk involved in coming into a hospital. For example, falls, medication errors, allergic reactions and infections can occur despite everyone’s best efforts.

Research shows that patients who take a more active role in their care tend to have better health outcomes. “We encourage patients and their families to be a part of their health care team,” says Marie Paluzzi, Chief Operating Officer. “The hospital is committed to ensuring that patient care is as safe as possible but we need the patient’s help and input.”

Falls are the primary cause of injury admissions to Canadian hospitals and represent the sixth leading cause of death among older adults according to the Canadian Institute for Health Information (CIHI). “Preventing patient falls is an important quality and patient safety initiative for SAH and we have many processes in place, including a thorough falls prevention procedure and a number of universal fall risk interventions such as familiarizing the patient with their environment, maintaining the call light within reach, keeping floor surfaces clean and dry and many others,” adds Paluzzi.

SAH works hard to keep you safe while in hospital by minimizing or preventing falls. You can help by doing the following:

  • Wear rubber-soled footwear that fits properly. Laced-up shoes are best.
  • Ask staff for assistance, especially at night.
  • Ask that a light be turned on if you are moving about.
  • Report any liquid or obstructions on the floor.
  • Make sure wheelchair brakes are in place before sitting down.
  • Your bed should be at the lowest position possible for your height.
  • Make sure to have your call bell at your bedside.

Most health care settings report less than 50 per cent adherence to hand hygiene and compliance among all Ontario health care providers is estimated to be less than 32 per cent.

“Although we are required to report hand hygiene compliance to the Ministry yearly, SAH tracks compliance monthly, based on regular audits among staff,” states Johanne Messier-Mann, Chief Nursing Officer and Director of Maternal Child and Medical Programs. “We are conducting hand hygiene audits more frequently and providing ongoing education to staff when necessary. As a result, our hand hygiene compliance rates for January were at 84%.  Our ultimate goal is 100%”

Although hospitals work very hard to protect patients from infections, there are also some steps that patients can take during their stay to assist in these efforts:

  • Don’t hesitate to ask those providing your care to clean their hands and put on gloves before examining you.
  • Clean your hands often or use the antiseptic gel provided by the hospital.
  • Ask your visitors to clean their hands when they arrive at the hospital and again when they leave.
  • Ask family and friends not to visit you if they have colds, flu, fever, sore throat, diarrhea, or exhibit any signs of illness.

In addition to falls and infections, medication errors can also occur in hospitals. “Medication reconciliation is a process whereby all medications are consciously continued, discontinued or modified in a timely manner as a patient moves through various levels of care from admission to discharge,” says Kelli-Ann Lemieux, Director of Clinical Support Services and Chief Allied Health Professional. “SAH strives to follow a thorough medication reconciliation procedure at admission, throughout transfers and at the discharge process.”

Patients can help to minimize or prevent medication errors:

  • Keep a current list of your medications. Use one pharmacy so they will have a complete list of your medications.
  • When going to hospital or a health care provider, bring all your medications with you, as well as the pharmacy-prepared list of medications.
  • While in hospital, always show your wristband to the nurse and state your full name for correct identification when receiving medication.
  • Know your medications. If you don’t recognize the color or size of a medication, speak up. Find out what it is and why you’re being asked to take it.
  • Make sure your doctors and nurses know about any allergies or previous reactions to drugs.
  • Do not take any other medicines without your health team’s approval (including over-the-counter medicines like aspirin or cough medicine, vitamins, herbal products, etc.)
  • Let your nurse know if your medications are overdue.

It is also vitally important that you understand what to expect while you recover at home. Before you are discharged, it is a good idea to have a family member or a friend present to help you. Before you go home, ask as many questions as necessary to make sure you understand:

  • Your treatment plan
  • What home care services you may receive 
  • What medications you require
  • What appointments you need to make
  • What special equipment you may require
  • All instructions you may have been given for your post-discharge care

SAH is committed to enhancing patient safety and is continuously working to ensure that patients are safe. As such, the hospital has established a Quality Care Committee which oversees and makes recommendations related to patient safety - an integral part of the overall Quality Improvement Plan.

“We all have an important part to play when it comes to patient safety,” says Paluzzi. “We encourage patients to be actively involved in their health care so we can work together to ensure their hospital stay is as positive as it can possibly be.”

Rose Calibani is the Public Affairs Officer at Sault Area Hospital. We welcome comments and suggestions for future column topics. Please call Public Affairs at (705) 759-3671.    

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