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Reducing falls priority for Hawke’s Bay DHB

Hawke’s Bay District Health Board reported seven serious and sentinel events in the 2010/11 year Health Quality and Safety Commission report released today.

Hospital chief medical officer hospital and co-chair of the DHB’s Clinical Council John Gommans said each event was thoroughly investigated and reported on.

“These events are very distressing especially for patients and families as well as the clinicians involved. This report helps us improve the quality and safety of our clinical services to reduce the risk of them happening again.”

Of the events reported this year two related to sentinel events from falls which had led to the DHB’s Clinical Council setting up a Falls Minimisation Committee responsible for reducing injuries from falls in hospital and the community, he said.

Dr Gommans said while the DHB had remained pretty static in the number of falls it had reported in previous serious and sentinel event reports, clinicians wanted a greater focus on actions to reduce the number and prevent them from happening.

Nationally falls related injury is one of the leading causes of morbidity and mortality in older people and falls in the community are the single biggest reason for Emergency Department presentations in people over the age of 65.

“A fall for a patient, while they are in hospital or in the community can have serious effects, especially in older people who may have osteoporosis which weakens their bones. These include serious head injuries, bone fractures, need to go into residential care and fear of falling, and they may even cause death,” Dr Gommans said.

The committee, which is led by the director of Nursing Chris McKenna, will be responsible for developing ways we can help prevent injury from falls and it will report monthly to the Clinical Council.

Dr Gommans said the hospital was now screening patients for their risk of falling and was using wrist bands to identify to all staff and visitors those patients most at risk. The DHB had bought and installed new equipment such as specialised beds, which could be lowered to floor level, so if a patient did attempt to get out of bed unsupervised, they didn’t fall from a height. The hospital also now had personal patient alarms which were used for at risk patients in wheelchairs or on chairs.

“The work on minimising falls is on-ongoing and we believe the committee will help us reduce the number of falls in the community and in the hospital. Patients’ who present to ED following a fall will also be advised on how to prevent falls at home and also helped with advice on how to build muscle strength with exercise to help prevent falls.”

HBDHB MEDIA RELEASE: Monday 20 February 2012