Interview with Jolanta Bilinska, president Patient Safety Foundation

Jolanta Bilińska from the Polish Patients Safety Foundation. Jolanta begins as the new IAPO Chair in August and answered a few questions for us.

1. Describe your role at the Patients Safety Foundation:

I am the founding President of the Polish Patient Safety Foundation.

2. I do what I do because…

I became a patient advocate because of my experience as a journalist working on health issues in Poland. In 2002 I discovered that in one of the largest hospitals in Poland, 17 newborn children suddenly died. The hospital tried to cover up the cause of these deaths but due to my persistence and further investigation, it was revealed that the children had died due to the Klebsiella pneumonia infection. This incidence made me realise that there was a big gap and mistrust between the patients and the healthcare providers or the health system that was causing a lot of problems including patient safety issues. The healthcare provided to patients was not patient centred and they were also not empowered to take an active role in their care and treatment.

The death of these 17 children motivated me to do something so that things could be improved and such incidences do not happen in future. I realised that patients and the health system need to come out of their shells, avoid the blame game and work in partnership to achieve patient-centred healthcare in the country. This motivated me to become a patient advocate and I founded the Polish Patient Safety Foundation. This was a very successful initiative as we managed to motivate the healthcare stakeholders including patients, healthcare providers and policy makers to work in partnership for the improvement in healthcare.

Likewise, I am passionate that we could achieve similar results at global level as we strengthen the patients’ movement and work in partnerships with the health systems.

3. Why does the Patient Safety Foundation exist?

The main objective of our Foundation is to work towards patients’ safety and patient-centred healthcare through the active engagement and empowerment of patients and communities. The Polish Patient Safety Foundation is providing a range of services which include capacity building and training, information advice and support, advocacy campaigns, conferences, workshops and different patient safety initiatives in and outside Poland.

4. What is your biggest achievement as an organization in the past year?

Our biggest achievement is the recognition by the government that patients are an important stakeholder of the health system. I am pleased that patients are now consulted by the government on various health issues and we as patients are consulted on important health issues on regional and national levels including regulations on patients’ rights and patient safety hospitals.

5. What does patient-centred healthcare look like to you?

It means that in every health system patients should be considered the most important stakeholder and that all the healthcare system is designed and delivered to address the needs of patients.

6. What do you think is the key benefit of being involved with IAPO and a global alliance for patients?

It is extremely important that patients are united at local, regional and global levels. IAPO is the only global patients’ organization that works across all disease areas and across all regions of the world, thus providing an excellent platform to patients from all over the world to unite and work towards patient-centred healthcare. IAPO, being the truly global patients’ voice, is effectively raising patients’ views and concerns at international forums including the World Health Organization.

It is also of great value to be a member of IAPO as members get access to a number of benefits ranging from information resources, toolkits, webinars, workshops, meetings, conferences, connections and partnerships with other patient organizations, and a range of other stakeholders. Moreover, it also provides the important opportunity to amplify the voice of patients in the local and global arenas and promote the importance of patient-centred healthcare.

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