Dr. Pieter de Jager
The spread of infection and disease is opportunistic in nature, and those who routinely come into contact with these hazards must protect themselves by employing sound practices and tools designed to reduce such risks.
This was the message conveyed to an audience of nearly 120 representatives of private hospital groups, public sector health departments, pathology services, health science faculties at universities, research bodies and professional groups who participated in the Fourth Healthcare Worker Safety Summit, held in Johannesburg, South Africa. Facilitated by a BD regional team led by BD Country Manager Ian Wakefield, the attending healthcare professionals gained insight on such topics as Options for Improving Injection Safety, World Health Organization (WHO) Guidelines, and Advancing the Culture of Safety.
Safety and Local Surveillance – a Health Economics and Outcome Research Perspective was presented by Dr. Pieter de Jager, a medical doctor in the Department of Anaesthetics at Wits University and member of South Africa’s National Institute for Occupational Health (NIOH). “Conservatively, we estimated that at least 20 doctors and nurses in the public healthcare sector alone contract HIV each year through needlestick injuries. We could reduce this number by more than half, our study shows, through training and the provision of safety devices.”
South African healthcare workers fall into a high-risk category from needlestick injury and infection from blood-borne pathogens. Currently, there is no standardized approach to protecting healthcare workers in the country from needlestick injuries. Yet, the extent of needlestick injuries in South Africa is such that better strategies to improve safety of healthcare workers have become necessary.
Mr. Wakefield stated, “The WHO recognized the danger posed by sharps injuries and has laid down user-friendly guidelines on safe injection, including the management of occupational risk.” He added, “A second is all it takes. The question is then whether we in South Africa are doing enough to ensure the safety and protection of healthcare workers.”
In the United States, BD played a key role in helping advance legislation to secure the safety of all who are involved with sharp instruments. BD’s advocacy for similar national guidelines in many parts of the world—for supporting use of safety engineered devices in conjunction with education, training, surveillance and capacity building—aligns with its purpose of advancing the world of health.