What would support for larger safety issues in Saskatoon Health Region look like?

On January 22, that’s exactly what approximately fifty safety experts, including patient and family advisors, tried to figure out.

“In developing the Safety Alert System, we’ve discovered that we need an extra layer of support or a hub to address some of the more systemic safety issues that exist in our Region,” says Victoria Schmid, Director Safety Alert System. The majority of calls to the Safety Alert System are Level Two calls, which means “little to no harm done” but they require managers to respond to them.

“Closing the loop on some of these safety alerts takes time and even though I schedule time to deal with them, some mornings, I can’t get through them all because they require more in terms of follow-up or investigation. Then a backlog starts and I’m overwhelmed,” says Lenore Howey, Laboratory Manager at St. Paul’s Hospital.  “As of today, I’m caught up on my safety alerts but I know that after missing two days, I’ll be behind next week in terms of closing the loop on some of them and that’s okay for now, but I can’t sustain this pace.”

Schmid agrees. “Many of our level two calls are system issues and it’s just not realistic to expect managers to be responsible for resolving them,” she says, “so we pulled most of the Region’s safety experts together to work on how to support and resolve those issues that managers cannot resolve on their own.”

One of the benefits of the Safety Alert System since its initial implementation at St. Paul’s Hospital has been the ability to track and understand the trends of safety concerns.

“When a number of departments or units are reporting the same issue, we can identify that as a larger system problem much more quickly than before,” says Schmid. “The problem is how to address and resolve those larger issues effectively and we’re hoping that this group, with their knowledge and safety expertise, can design what that process will be and what it will look like.”

To begin this work, safety experts from all over the Region talked about their specific jobs and mapped out what they do so that everyone was aware of each other’s job responsibilities and work processes.

“In our discussions, we’ve talked about the lack of role clarity,” says Tennille Corbett, Occupational Health and Safety Manager. “There are so many professionals here that support safety; from medication safety to patient safety, to employee safety to Accreditation and client representatives, so it’s been truly enlightening to pull all that expertise together and see where our practices and processes differ, yet could align.”

The group then broke off into four teams to design a model of what a safety hub could look like and how it would work, with everyone voting on the model they liked best. The Safety Alert System team is currently in the process of creating electronic versions of the models and compiling the results, which will be revealed before the next safety coalition meeting to focus on further development of the chosen model.

“We are excited by the type of work being done by those present here today,” says Caroline Westman, patient advisor. “We feel that by everyone working together and striving to improve communication, as well as to encourage communication, the cracks in our system can be successfully be repaired. We believe that good things are on the horizon and we feel that if we all keep focused on ensuring safety for all patients, families and staff this valuable goal will be reached.”

Staff sketching

Sketching out the models on paper