Newly opened centre to advance safety in SA healthcare

A new collaboration, located within the University of Cape Town’s (UCT) Clinical Skills Centre, will help foster safer practices in healthcare through an educational focus on patient and healthcare worker safety.

The clinical work environment poses multiple threats to both healthcare providers and patients, which compromises the quality and outcomes of the health service.

With support from the medical technology company BD (Beckton Dickinson), the UCT Clinical Skills Centre, a division in the Department of Health Sciences Education, has refurbished a learning space in Cape Town’s Groote Schuur Hospital as a dedicated centre of excellence. The Safety in Health Simulation Centre is a simulation ward equipped with resources necessary for cross-sectoral collaboration and inter-professional learning, leading to better teamwork between staff from across the continuum of health service.

Under simulated conditions, lifelike models of patients wait to be resuscitated and have catheters, intravenous or other therapies administered to them.

Students, interns, nurses and other staff are able to practice a range of skills, including aseptic nursing techniques, sharps procedures and team communication. Learning is supported through the ongoing development of a safety curriculum, methods for testing policies and protocols related to sharps and infection prevention and a digital library with multimedia educational resources.

“We are excited to include Groote Schuur Hospital’s managers, nurses, doctors, rehabilitation, cleaning and other support staff in the development, implementation and evaluation of a safety curriculum,” says Dr Rachel Weiss, Director of the UCT Clinical Skills Centre.

Globally, infection management in clinical settings, such as clinics and hospitals, is a challenge faced by all health professionals. In South Africa, where the incidence of TB and MDR-TB is high, preventative measures include ensuring proper ventilation, adhering to policies minimising exposure and wearing safety masks where necessary. Proper use and disposal of sharps minimise the risk of contracting HIV and hepatitis.

“Awareness of and commitment to safe practice is an attitude which needs to be developed early on in a student’s training and sustained throughout clinical service.” – Dr Rachel Weiss.

Patients can also be exposed to infections through inadequate hygiene during procedures or injuries resulting from equipment malfunction or improper use.

“Awareness of and commitment to safe practice is an attitude which needs to be developed early on in a student’s training and sustained throughout clinical service,” explains Dr Weiss.

Developing a culture of safety entails having a sustained, shared approach to healthcare education and delivery that crosses historical boundaries between different professions, public and private sectors and academic and provincial institutions, says Ian Wakefield, Country General Manager, BD Africa.

“BD believes in the long-term benefit of empowering all individuals involved in patient care as a crucial component of strengthening the healthcare system and ensuring that it can advance the health of all people entrusted to its care,” he says.

“We are excited about the substantial benefits that will be reaped for healthcare through this new collaboration between BD, UCT Faculty of Health Science and Groote Schuur Hospital. It highlights how the private sector is making a difference to public health through investment and involvement in improving the education and training of health professionals,” says Dean of the Faculty of Health Sciences, Professor Bongani Mayosi.

The Safety in Health Simulation Centre also aims to connect interest groups and develop networks. Today’s opening event featured addresses by Professor Mayosi, Dr Zolelwa Sifumba who survived occupationally acquired drug-resistant TB, representatives from the Health Department and other role players in the delivery of healthcare.

When fully operational, the centre will be linked to other training centres across the country and elsewhere in Africa so that its contribution extends beyond UCT and the Western Cape region.