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Patients, stay safe

Knowing and understanding how you can stay healthy when you are in hospital will help you feel empowered.

Every South African will need to access healthcare services at some point in their life. Being informed about the safety of your treatment makes you a partner in your own care.

While hospitals and medical facilities always make safety a priority, patients also have an important role to play to keep themselves healthy during the time they are hospitalised.

The most effective method to prevent the transfer of bacteria is good hand hygiene. Whether you are a patient, visitor or hospital staff, keeping your hands clean is one of the most important steps you can take to avoid getting sick and spreading germs to others.

In recent years, antimicrobial stewardship, or the responsible use of antibiotics, has also become a focus of patient safety. Most hospitals have strategies in place to promote the appropriate use of antibiotics, reduce microbial resistance and decrease the spread of infections caused by multidrug-resistant organisms.

What can patients do to stay safe?

  • Always ensure that the information you give your doctor or healthcare provider, including about any allergies, is accurate.
  • Don’t be afraid to ask questions if you have any doubts about your diagnosis, prescribed medication or treatment regimen. You are always within your rights to seek a second opinion.
  • Ask your doctor about the pros and cons of any medical procedure and request that they are clear about the side effects.
  • Ask friends or relatives who have colds, coughs, respiratory symptoms or contagious illnesses not to visit you or anyone in hospital. You should also minimise visits from children under 12, as they often have colds or other infections that are easy to pass on.
  • Falling is a common cause of patient injury in hospitals. Always ask for assistance, especially after an operation or at night when ward lighting might be low.

What can hospitals do to keep you safe?

  • Make sure your doctor hasn’t used abbreviations when writing out your prescription. Capital letters are easier to read and won’t cause confusion.
  • It’s important that hospitals engage you and your family in your own care by communicating effectively. If you feel this is not being done, bring it to your doctor’s or caregiver’s attention.
  • Doctors or pharmacists should carefully explain all prescribed medication, including how it should be taken and the possible side effects.

The information is shared on condition that readers will make their own determination, including seeking advice from a healthcare professional. E&OE. Life Healthcare Group Ltd does not accept any responsibility for any loss or damage suffered by the reader as a result of the information provided.