The Ontario Hospital Association (OHA) is pleased to co-sponsor this special edition of Healthcare Quarterly dedicated to patient safety.

The OHA is a voluntary organization representing Ontario's public hospitals. The OHA, founded in 1924, is the voice of Ontario's hospitals and a leader in shaping the future of the healthcare system, fostering excellence, building linkages with the community and advocating for quality healthcare. One of the things we are proudest of is our ability to identify patient needs within the healthcare system and then use our expertise to create and implement programs and strategies to address those needs. For example, in the days before universal, publicly funded healthcare and the Canada Health Act, the OHA recognized the need for affordable healthcare coverage and, in response, created the highly successful Ontario Blue Cross program. And in 1957, when the Government of Ontario created the Ontario Hospitals Services Commission to administer a provincial health insurance plan, they relied on staff from the OHA to make this initiative a success. (History buffs will note that the Ontario Hospital Services Commission initiative became the Ontario Hospital Insurance Plan [OHIP], and led to the creation of the present-day Ministry of Health and Long-Term Care.)

Today, we believe that improving patient safety and increasing patient involvement in the management of their own healthcare are among the most pressing challenges that healthcare providers face. We also believe that the solutions to these challenges are interwoven - that successfully increasing our patients' involvement in managing their healthcare will lead to improved patient safety.

That is why, with funding from Ontario's Ministry of Health and Long-term Care, the OHA established the Patient Safety Support Service (PSSS), the first service of its kind in Canada.

The mandate of the PSSS is to: raise awareness among hospital management and frontline staff about patient safety; foster the development of local expertise in patient safety; promote effective leadership strategies that enhance patient safety; and provide leadership and be a resource to hospitals in their efforts to effect system change for improved patient safety, with assistance that is both focused and practical.

Since its creation in March 2004, the PSSS has developed key resources, including discussion papers, tool kits, newsletters, and an interactive website to help raise the awareness of patient safety and promote effective strategies that enhance patient safety. The PSSS staff have also worked with the Institute for Safe Medication Practices Canada (ISMP-Canada) to encourage hospitals to remove concentrated KCl (potassium chloride) from patient care areas, and are working with the Quality Healthcare Network to encourage hospitals to participate in the ongoing "Safer Healthcare Now" campaign.

Recently, the PSSS launched "Your Healthcare - Be Involved," a program designed to empower patients, enhance patient safety and promote better health outcomes by bringing the advice and expertise of health professionals together in five easy-to-understand "tips" for patients to use in any healthcare setting. In a similar vein, the OHA is today working with Ontario's hospitals, patients and our other partners to ensure that our healthcare system is as safe as it can be.

Like the OHA, readers of Healthcare Quarterly make meeting the needs of patients their priority. This special issue features an extensive compilation of articles on key patient safety topics such as culture change, reducing risk, medication safety, information technology, patient safety as an agenda for change, and disclosure and accountability. We hope it will provide you with useful information, expand the body of knowledge about patient safety and lead to new patient safety initiatives across Canada.

Enjoy the read!

About the Author

Hilary Short, President and CEO