Letter from the Chairman, February 2021

3 minute read

Dear Readers,

The country now has new leadership. President Biden has taken over and has made the COVID-19 pandemic his top priority. His goal is to unify the country and get COVID-19 under control. He has spoken about removing politics from the equation and simply following the science to beat this virus. “With unity we can do great things. Important things,” he said in his inauguration speech. “We will get through this together.”

The President has already taken several actions in his first week in office to combat COVID-19. He has mandated face masks and social distancing on federal property, public transportation, and airports. His COVID-19 battle plan uses the Defense Production Act to speed up the manufacture of components needed to produce vaccines. The plan also creates federal vaccination centers. President Biden has also announced a $1.9 trillion COVID-19 relief package to provide help to those most affected by the virus and boost funding for COVID-19 vaccines and testing.

On the patient safety side, President Biden is very aware of The Patient Safety Movement Foundation. Several of us once spent an afternoon with him a few years back, talking about our goals of Zero Harm and Zero Preventable Deaths in health care. He also came to the PSMF Summit Meeting in both 2015 and 2017, where he delivered an excellent keynote lecture on Patient Safety and discussed his own family’s experience with the healthcare system. His comments at the Inauguration that “the American Story relies on all of us – we the people”  apply very strongly to patient safety.

Vice President Biden meeting with the Patient Safety Movement in April 2015 in his U.S. Capitol office, discussing Zero Harm and Zero Preventable Deaths in health care with Joe Kiani and Mike Ramsay.

President Biden has also announced that the U.S. will rejoin the World Health Organization (WHO), which will bring much needed funds to global health. The WHO Director-General Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus, who is also a supporter of the PSMF, has been a Summit keynote speaker, and most recently spoke at our #uniteforsafecare virtual event.

Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus, Director-General of the World Health Organization, speaks at the 2019 Patient Safety Summit

It is our hope that these efforts will help stop this pandemic in the next few months, and prevent the deaths that now exceed 400,000 in the USA, and 100,000 in the UK. In addition, many patients have residual morbidity after an infection at a much higher rate. The virus is also mutating, as coronaviruses are known to do. This presents more challenges for scientists who are trying to stay ahead of the virus with vaccines.

Meanwhile, with hospitals around the world full of COVID-19 patients, we must continue to protect our health care staff and provide the necessary care for our non-COVID-19 patients.

Despite these challenges, we must work to elevate healthcare to the level of a High Reliability Organization (HRO). As an HRO, preventable errors can be stopped, and our patients can be managed safely in our health care systems. This effort, too, comes from leadership. Top down improvements must come from hospital administration and the boards, so that every person involved in patient care is very aware of the risks if safe protocols are not followed.

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