WHO Launches Effort To Address Medical Mistakes in Hospitals That Fuel Spread of HIV, Other Infections
The World Health Organization on Wednesday announced nine recommendations for medical facilities to improve their practices in an effort to curb medical errors that contribute to the spread of infections, including HIV, Reuters reports. According to WHO, medical errors affect one in 10 patients worldwide and more than 1.4 million people at any given time develop hospital-acquired infections. WHO reported that unsafe injections with reused and unsterilized equipment are believed to occur most often in South Asia, the Middle East and the Western Pacific. Up to 18% of injections given in sub-Saharan African hospitals involve reused syringes or unsterilized needles, which increase the risk of HIV and hepatitis, WHO said. Experts from more than 100 countries provided WHO with feedback on the draft recommendations.
The recommendations call for improving hand hygiene of medical workers in part by increasing the availability of alcohol-based hand rubs; prohibiting the reuse of needles to prevent transmission of HIV and hepatitis; ensuring quality patient identification; ensuring operations are performed on correct body parts; double-checking similar-sounding medication names and addressing the issue of illegible prescriptions; ensuring medical workers communicate about patients' care and conditions when passing treatment responsibilities to others; and controlling concentrated electrolyte solutions and avoiding catheter and tubing connection problems.
"We were struck with the commonality of these problems around the world," Dennis O'Leary, head of the commission that evaluates and accredits U.S. hospitals and an author of the recommendations, said. Liam Donaldson, head of the WHO campaign that unveiled the recommendations, attributed the medical errors to the complacency among medical workers. "We need to remember that we have a problem, and it's time that we start tackling it in earnest," he said. O'Leary said, "Different places are going to have to set their own priorities and, maybe more importantly, figure out how they're going to address those" (Dunham, Reuters, 5/2).