BusinessDay

Minister laments incidence of medical errors in Nigeria

Osagie Ehanire, Nigeria’s minister of health on Monday lamented the high incidence of medical errors across health institutions which often leave patients in severe conditions or result in death.

The minister raised this concern at an event to commemorate the 2022 World Patient Safety Day with the theme ‘medication safety’ and the slogan: ‘medication without harm’.

He explained that medications can cause serious harm if not used correctly either as a result of miscommunication between the patient and healthcare giver, error in prescriptions, poor monitoring of patient on medication, misuse of antibiotics which can result in antimicrobial resistance, confusion in dispensing look alike and sound alike drugs, among others.

The minister also expressed concerns that medication errors are underreported. Quoting a study conducted by Ogunleye et al on medication errors among health care professionals in 10 tertiary hospitals, he said 35.5 percent of 2386 professionals that participated in the study reported medication error, while 33.4 percent did not think reporting was necessary.

He disclosed that a high incidence of major medication errors related to prescription of incorrect antiretroviral therapy (ART), protocols, potential drug-drug interaction in Nigeria’s HIV treatment programme was reported.

“Moving on from medication error, we have seen quite a number of surgical errors which include but are not limited to operations on the wrong side, ligation of ureters during hysterectomy, including stories of how surgical instruments, sponges and needles were left inside a patient. We have seen cases where the wrong patient was wheeled into the operating room because they were bearing similar names etc,” he said.

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“Errors are not limited to medical or surgical services alone; some errors have also been recorded in our laboratories. Recently, a young lady was said to have been transfused with the wrong blood following which she developed severe transfusion reactions and eventually died. The case was reported by the BusinessDay Newspaper this year,” the minister added.

The minister further informed that Nigeria was already working to develop its National Policy and Strategy on patient safety and quality of care. “We are hoping it will be completed and launched this year so that it can be deployed for use in all our health facilities at all levels of care. The policy focuses on improving medication safety, surgical safety, safety of all medical procedures etc,” he said.

The WHO regional director for Africa, Matshidiso Moeti, said there was a high magnitude of unsafe medication practices among low – and middle-income countries including Nigeria.

According to her, global estimates show that medication errors contribute to over 3 million deaths every year, a situation which she noted, has been exacerbated by overwhelmed health systems during the COVID-19 pandemic.

“About one in every four cases of preventable medication harm is clinically severe, or life-threatening,” she said

Moeti further estimated that about $42 billion of total health expenditure worldwide could be averted if medication errors were addressed. She informed that the Medication Without Harm aims to reduce severe avoidable medication-related harm by 50 percent globally in the next five years, through focused activities and interventions targeting three areas: patients and the public; health care professionals; and medicines, systems and medication practices.

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