Reassessing the Meaning of Patient Safety in the COVID-19 Pandemic

Letter from the Chairman, January 2021

Dear Readers,

2020 has been a very difficult year for everyone. The COVID-19 virus turned out to be much more contagious than any of us had imagined. Now, nine months later, over 300,000 deaths have occurred in the United States alone from this virus. This toll includes both healthcare workers as well as patients, which has caused us to reexamine what patient safety means.

At PSMF, we have transitioned successfully to virtual meetings. The PSMF Annual Summit was canceled a week before it was due to take place, and what a wise decision that was!   Our World Patient Safety Day #uniteforsafecare virtual event was a major success. Online events have lowered costs while enabling more people to attend meetings. Going forward, I am sure that many of these virtual meetings will continue.

What will 2021 bring us? The New Year is upon us, and along with it, record numbers of COVID-19 cases, and cities around the world on lockdown! However, there is a glimmer of hope — the vaccines have arrived, as have therapeutic monoclonal antibodies.

I received a vaccine last week, along with many hundreds of health care workers who are exposed to the virus every day. We must ensure that everyone has access to these vaccines, so that hopefully, when Spring arrives, we will see a permanent downturn in the pandemic. Eventually, it will come under control, so that our lives can return to a more normal place than they have been for the last year.

We must rebuild our infrastructure to help make our world a safer place when another pandemic hits, as I am sure it will.  The world has become a smaller place — cities are more crowded, and there are many unsanitary marketplaces and living environments. We need to invest in cleaner cities, cleaner public transportation, and cleaner work environments. We must also make sure that our hospitals are properly equipped, and that staff are properly protected and trained, to be prepared for the next pandemic.

On a very positive note, as I am very involved in major organ transplantation, it was very heartening to see that Congress has passed the Comprehensive Immunosuppressive Drug Coverage for Kidney Transplant Patients Act. This legislation will provide lifelong medication coverage for kidney recipients on Medicare, who are otherwise limited to just 36 months of immunosuppression drug coverage post-transplant.  Thank goodness, good safe patient care reached Congress!

The pandemic has made the world a smaller place and emphasized the need for us all to work together to beat it!  This has also caused the Patient Safety Movement Foundation to become more global in our drive to make healthcare safe for everyone. We have partnered with many organizations worldwide in our drive for patient safety.  We have links with Australia and New Zealand, Mexico and South America, Europe, Asia and the Middle East. Together we can make a difference!

Mike Ramsay, M.D.
Chairman, Patient Safety Movement Foundation
Past President, Baylor Scott & White Research Institute, Dallas, TX