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Canadian Patient Safety Week 2019: Speak out and conquer silence


A woman outside holding a toddler boy in a bear toque.
Sally and her grandson.

Canadian Patient Safety Week takes place October 28 to November 1. This annual campaign encourages all Canadians to become involved in making patient safety a priority. The theme for Canadian Patient Safety Week (supported through the national organization Canadian Patient Safety Institute) is Conquer Silence and is raising the awareness of how silence of patients and providers in the system contributes to people dying.

“What most Canadians don’t realize, is that 28,000 of us die from preventable harm when receiving care, every single year. This makes patient safety incidents the third leading cause of death in Canada, behind cancer and heart disease. One in three Canadians has had patient harm affect themselves or a loved one, yet the public is collectively unaware that the problem exists. This is a silent epidemic. If we do nothing, 1.2 million Canadians will die from preventable patient harm in the next 30 years.” (Canadian Patient Safety Institute website.)

I recently spoke with Sally Rosevear, a patient partner with Northern Health, who has shared her story and her commitment to patient safety to encourage others to speak up and get involved.

Sally’s story

My renewed interest in the delivery of healthcare began in 2014 during my husband’s hospitalization in the final few months of his life.

It was complications of long-standing coronary artery disease that brought us to an emergency room. My husband also had Alzheimer’s and we had managed successfully at home with myself as his sole caregiver until this time.

Throughout his care journey, I tried to answer the healthcare professionals’ questions, sometimes over and over again. However, when I had questions, explanations, or suggestions for them, it seemed there were few who would listen. I found this frustrating and not supportive, and I felt it negatively impacted the care my husband received.

When my husband reached the end of his life at home, under less than satisfactory conditions, I was more devastated by how things had been mishandled than by him having died.

In spite of my best efforts, things had gone terribly wrong. I didn’t want anyone else to have to endure what we’d been through. The system had failed us and it needed to be made aware. If I didn’t speak up would I be able to live with myself?

It was not easy to gather my thoughts and express them in a letter to Northern Health’s Patient Care Quality Office. However, I also felt that unless I made them aware of the situation, and changes were made, it was likely that other patients and their families would suffer similar outcomes. I didn’t want that to happen.

So began my continuing mission to speak up about the shortcomings that I had seen within healthcare. I joined Patient Voices Network (PVN) and have been given numerous opportunities to tell my story. I had tried to “speak up” during my husband’s journey, but often the response we received was “too little”, “too late” or both.  However, it wasn’t too late to speak out for others. My story supports how a focus on person- and family-centred care can improve care.

Currently, I am participating as a patient partner with Northern Health’s planning committee for the celebration of Canadian Patient Safety Week. This year’s theme is Conquer the Silence.

I find it alarming and unacceptable that one in three Canadians have been affected by preventable healthcare harm. Every 17 minutes someone dies in a hospital from an adverse event. Preventable healthcare harm is the third leading cause of death in Canada. This means that 28,000 people die each year who shouldn’t. Silence plays a major role.

So, if something looks wrong, feels wrong, or is wrong, speak out. You can effect improvements or even save a life. Check out the information on Canadian Patient Safety Week’s Conquer Silence campaign, learn about Patient Voices Network or contact Northern Health’s Patient Care Quality Office.


Thank you, Sally, for sharing your story!

Have a complaint about care? Here’s the process you should follow:

  1. Individuals with concerns or complaints should first speak with the person who provided the service, or to the manager of the area. Complaints are best addressed and resolved at the time and place they occur.
  2. If this isn’t an option or doesn’t serve you, the next step is to speak to local administration.
  3. If your complaint remains unresolved, please contact the NH Patient Care Quality Office.