Patient safety

Christine Perera - Sri Lanka

Christine and her team of colleagues are very active in patient safety work and collaborations, both within Sri Lanka and in the South East Asian Region.

In December 2007 Christine attended the First Meeting of the Regional Network of Medical Councils organised by the WHO Regional Office for South East Asia held in Colombo. One of the key items on the agenda was to discuss the roles and responsibilities of medical councils in ensuring patients’ safety. The key action points identified by the working groups were to ensure transparency in the proceedings of Medical Councils, to improve the efficiency of the grievance procedures for patients, and to include non-medical representatives in Medical Councils.

In January 2008 she attended a WHO regional workshop in Bentota. The overall purpose was to strengthen emergency and essential surgical care at the district level to ensure patient safety.

Christine has represented Patients for Patient Safety at the Healthcare Systems Ergonomics and Patient Safety 2008 Conference in Strasbourg in June 2008 where, along side nine other Patients for Patient Safety Champions, she shared her personal experience and learning, urging participants to listen to patients and tackle patient safety in partnership with patients and their families.

Christine and the Patient Safety team in Sri Lanka is already actively engaged in safety activities with the College of General Practitioners of Sri Lanka. They are developing educational posters which could be displayed in surgeries island-wide. The originals were compiled in the Sinhala language and are being translated into English and Tamil. They are also working to translate the relevant cautionary labels contained in the British National Formulary into Sinhala and Tamil. The intention would be to make this list available to all pharmacies nationwide.

Christine is currently a member of the Public Health Forum of the College of Community Physicians - one of the topics to be debated closely over the next twelve months will be precisely patient safety.

Christine's story

I was hospitalized with dengue fever, or haemorrhagic fever, in May 2002. During my time in hospital I received a wound to my foot. Since it was not taken seriously, the wound turned gangrenous. As a result of this I had to spend several months in hospital and undergo numerous surgeries where parts of bones from the foot had to be removed.

This preventable incident drastically changed our family’s life. I am a single parent and have been providing for my daughter by working as a sous-chef for my brother’s catering business for the last 25 years. My daughter has had to put her plans to pursue higher studies. on hold. Since I had little savings, all the financial burden fell upon my brothers’ shoulders.

After months of pain and fear, I saw a new doctor who helped me regain some trust and hope in the health care system. Although this doctor was one of the most senior surgeons in the country, he never hesitated to get a second opinion. All surgical procedures and treatment were explained to me before seeking my consent.

I realised that patients also have a role and responsibility in preventing adverse incidents and improving the safety of health care. I came across a small group of likeminded people striving for change. That was the inception of the People’s Movement for the Rights of Patients (PMRP). An organization that consist of civic action groups, multi-religious and multiracial in its makeup, PMRP played a key role in the formulation of a National Drug Policy.

During this time I was invited to the “Patients for Patient Safety” workshop organised by WHO Regional Office for South East Asia in Jakarta, Indonesia, in 2007. This three-day event, the first of its kind in our region, brought together patients, health care professionals, and policy makers in open dialogue. We shared experiences and perspectives and discovered how to work together to make health care safer in the region. Together, we drafted the “Jakarta Declaration”. Inspired by the workshop we formed into a group to advocate patient safety. Our overall aim is to work with health care providers and policy makers to improve the safety of health care in Sri Lanka.

To contact Christine or the Sri Lankan team, to find out more about what they are doing, please email