“It always seems impossible until it’s done.” These inspiring words of Nelson Mandela are particularly poignant as the world mourns the death of this incredible leader.

His message set the tone for a recent 3P (production, preparation, process) event where Saskatoon Health Region staff were joined by patient advisors and colleagues from across the province in designing the Saskatchewan safety alert system, the model line or prototype for which will be implemented first at St. Paul’s Hospital on March 11, 2014. RR-2013-12-18-MauraMessage-mandela-impossible

Zero harm. That is our goal. No harm to patients. No harm to staff. That means no avoidable deaths or complications such as surgical infections or pressure ulcers requiring additional medical interventions as a result of our care process. No time lost from work because of injury at the workplace.

This may seem like an impossible dream. It certainly is a “big hairy audacious goal.” But that is what we need to work towards. Other industries have done so. It used to be that mining deaths and construction injuries were all too common. Now each incident is treated seriously as a system failure, investigated and mistake proofed so it does not happen again.

Building on the experience of Toyota and Virginia Mason, we will develop a culture of safety and a system where potential risks are identified and addressed before patients, residents, clients, visitors or health-care providers are hurt. When errors occur, we will be able to respond quickly to contain the risk and prevent the error from resulting in harm.

We have already shown that we can totally eliminate some harm to patients that were previously accepted as unavoidable for a certain percentage of our patients. For example, central line infections and ventilator associated pneumonia can be completely eliminated by consistent use of standard work – evidence-based practices that have been proven to save lives. There are many other ‘never events’ that should never happen – giving a patient the wrong drug, operating on the wrong side, having residents develop pressure ulcers or having a home care patient fall during a bath.

Similarly, we can completely eliminate workplace injuries, all of which are preventable if staff are given the right training, tools and support – including time – to work safely.

Zero harm and safe care. That is what we want for ourselves and our loved ones. Zero harm and no workplace injuries. That is what we want for ourselves and our colleagues. When we achieve this, we too can look back and say it seemed impossible until it was done.

As always, I welcome your comments and questions about these and other matters. You can reach me directly at maura.davies@saskatoonhealthregion.ca.

Safe and happy holidays. This is my wish to all of you.

Maura Davies
President and CEO
Saskatoon Health Region