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CPSI Share                                                  
12/15/2010 5:00 PM

​​​​​​Paper highlights patient safety risks in primary care settings

Johanna Trimble and her family are all too familiar with the patient safety risks that exist in primary care.

In 2006, Trimble’s mother-in-law Fervid, was diagnosed with MRSA stemming from a persistent infection in one eye and subsequently contracted another superbug, C. difficile, from an outbreak in her nursing home. After six rounds of powerful antibiotics to combat the infection, Fervid’s health deteriorated and she died in October 2008, at 92 years of age.

Trimble, a member of the BC Patient Voices Network and a member of Patients for Patient Safety Canada, is applauding the recent release of the ‘Patient Safety in Primary Care’ Background Research Paper. Commissioned by the Canadian Patient Safety Institute (CPSI) and the BC Patient Safety & Quality Council, the paper explores the current state of knowledge, as well as the key issues, priorities, opportunities and strategies for advancing patient safety in primary care in Canada.

“Because our system is so fragmented, there has been little ability to report safety issues in primary care. It is difficult to change something you can’t measure,” Trimble says. “Our family has experienced this directly.”

She says the paper brings the extent of the issue to awareness and proposes ways to address it — an important first step.

“I hope that the paper will inspire Canadians to pay attention to how safety programs in other places, for example the U.K., have been developed and have made a real impact. We can learn from these experiences and see that it can be done.”

Dr. John Maxted, Assistant Professor in the Department of Family & Community Medicine at University of Toronto and the chair of the pan-Canadian Advisory Group that guided the research process, says the goal of the paper is to give momentum to the safety issues and ultimately compel leaders and providers towards system improvements.

“It’s an issue that needs attention – this kind of research has to move people to take action,” Maxted says. “If the paper is reviewed and causes people to pay attention and it stimulates people to take action to improve patient safety in primary care, then we will have accomplished what we wanted to.”

In the meantime, patient safety advocates such as Trimble will continue to rally people around the cause in an effort to ensure what happened to Fervid doesn’t happen to anyone else.

“Let’s drop the negative and passive attitudes of ‘it’s so big we can’t do anything about it’, or ‘it’s not so bad’ or ‘we keep trying but it doesn’t work’. There’s a saying – ‘make it easier to do the right thing and harder to do the wrong thing,’” she says. “Let’s give this priority and resources and change it!”

The report, ‘Patient Safety in Primary Care,’ is available on the BC Patient Safety & Quality Council’s website at and the Canadian Patient Safety Institute website at