When is the last time you made something from scratch, like a cake? You likely had a recipe to guide you through the process. But what if you didn’t? Would you still be able to create it?

Building the Safety Alert System at St. Paul’s Hospital was kind of like that; the end goal was to create a single safety reporting system, but creating and implementing it was not without its challenges and triumphs.

RR-2015-03-18-SAS-one-year-later“March 11 marked one year since the launch of the Safety Alert System,” says Victoria Schmid, Director of the Safety Alert System. “It’s important to look back at all we have accomplished yet recognize the many things still left to do.”

For Schmid, what stands out most is the resiliency of the Region’s staff members over the past year.

“When I look at the level two and level three reports that are submitted, I’m amazed by what lengths our staff have already gone to in order to try to fix things,” she says.

The system has faced many challenges over the first year; chief among them being the database where safety reports are managed. The Region is on its third version of the database, with all the suggestions for improving it coming from the managers and staff that use it.

“The database is still a work in progress and it’s been a challenge to get to a state of just being comfortable with not having it all perfect but just ‘good enough’ to go,” says Petrina McGrath Vice President of People, Practice and Quality. “We know that we need to keep improving the system every day.”

Lenore Howey, Laboratory Manager at St. Paul’s Hospital feels the Region has made a difference in creating a better system going forward. “Through the report reviews, we’ve made small changes for improvement in our system and we’re working collaboratively with the units that draw on our services,” she says.

The system has made safety reporting easier and simpler, which has led to increased reporting and the ability to immediately raise safety issues with someone who can help  prevent those issues from happening again. From March 11, 2014 to March 11, 2015, a total of 7,502 calls were made to the system, with 6,312 related to patients, 34 related to visitors and 1,153 related to staff.

“We know that our staff and physicians know what to do to fix things, but quite often because of our complex work environments, they aren’t able to do what they know needs to be done to make things safe,” says Schmid. “Sometimes that extra support from a manager, director, or vice president is needed in order to break down barriers in our system.”

Cathy Smith, a coordinator with the Safety Centre feels that staff are becoming more aware of safety issues and concerns and that they can call anytime, day or night.

“Staff have expressed how happy they are to actually have someone to talk to and listen to their concerns,” she says. “Being that person who listens to them and to be a part of something so great for the Region is an amazing feeling.”

Replicating that amazing feeling is what’s ahead for the Region during the system’s second year.

“There is a great pull right now to move over to Saskatoon City Hospital and to Royal University Hospital,” says McGrath. “Staff across sites are talking to each other and they want to keep this system moving, so getting a more robust database established is important so that we can further engage our organization in everyday real time data, improve our response and implementation of improvements.”

“Are there improvements we can make? Of course there are, and we will continue to make those improvements to get better every day,” says Schmid. “Every failure taught us something we didn’t know and gave us the ability to build a better plan for our next piece of work.”