♦♦  CULTURE   &   SAFETY PERFORMANCE  ♦♦
Feb 2013
     

Under the Knife

World Class Safety: Health & Hygiene

Picture: operating theatre staff

     

I have “signed my life away” and I feel like doing a full audit of all the tools, equipment, labelling, but . . . . it’s too late. I am flat on my back on the hard, cold and narrow operating table at Linksfield Hospital.

There is something frightening, yet reassuring about these masked faces.

Frightening, because the doctors have literally got my life in their hands. Thoughts of: “What if . . . .” flash through my brain.

Reassuring, because I know that I can ‘rest assured’ that I am in the best hands, the hands of genuine professionals.

I try to stay alert as nurse Rebecca gives me some oxygen, “just to be safe . . . .” and hooks me up to the monitoring instruments. I see Dr van der Spuy inserting the ‘plastic’ needle of the drip. The last words I hear are “You will feel . . . .” I am asleep in an instant.

Back in the ward, after recovery, I feel so good that I have to pat for the plaster or bandage. Perfect pain control! I have time to think about my hospital stay.

I am sharing this story of my operation with you because a hospital is a prime example of World Class S.H.E. – SAFETY, HEALTH and ENVIRONMENT. I am not talking about a third world bush clinic here, but of a facility and standards we all should strive for in our own operations, be it a factory, plant, mine or office complex.

  • Highly skilled doctors and nursing staff, serious about their work and following strict procedures, without taking short cuts.
  • Non-negotiable rules, such as those regarding hygiene. No one would even contemplate entering the operating theater without a sterile gown, slippers, gloves and mouth guard. Protection (PPE) for both the patient and the medical staff!
  • Working together as a team. No fooling around or taking chances. Clear cut roles and responsibilities – surgeon, anaesthetist, theater nurse, ward sister, cleaner, with no room for error and a spotless environment.
  • Identification and labeling is taken dead seriously, down to a milligram for medication. Identitags and bar coding for the patient with full particulars like ward, bed, responsible doctor, planned procedure, and double checking everything with sign-off (my brother’s keeper), to avoid any misunderstanding.
  • Pre-admission (pre-start) check lists. The anaesthetist would not dream of putting a patient to sleep without a face-to-face examination.
  • Monitoring and record keeping of blood pressure, pulse, temperature, medication, without fail. This is all part of discipline and genuine patient care, including hand-over to the next shift and the following of “doctor’s orders”.
  • Continuous improvement (‘plastic’ needle), especially in procedures and equipment, is part of making it safer for the patient and thus improving SHE all round.

ACTION

My challenge to you:

Use this write up for your next couple of toolbox talks. Furthermore, use it as a model to audit your operation. Forget your existing safety checklists and standards for a moment. Think out of the box and utilize this write up as a wake-up call. Get your senior leadership to ask: “If our operation were a hospital in which we carried out procedures and people’s lives were at stake, what would we do differently, right NOW? How SERIOUS would we be about adhering to our own policies and procedures?”.

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