Background The rate of harm resulting from unsafe care is known to be large in African health systems. A steadily growing knowledge base indicates that there is a significant need to improve patient safety in LMIC. The objective of this study is to assess the current awareness and culture for patient safety among clinical employees of Yaounde, Cameroon. An understanding of this landscape will inform future operators of potential areas in which to focus efforts towards strengthening patient safety practices in Cameroon as well as among LMIC institutions.

Methods A cross-sectional study was carried out. Four facilities in Yaounde, Cameroon of various categories: regional emergency center (REC), district hospital, mission hospital, and private clinic.Clinical employees (physicians, nurses and laboratory technicians) working in these four settings. A survey questionnaire was conducted among conveniently sampled clinical employees. Descriptive statistics on respondents’ age, gender, facility, unit, and position were generated from questionnaire responses. Likert items were aggregated into “Disagree”, “Neutral”, and “Agree” ordered categories for analysis. Chi-square tests, Mann-Whitney U tests, Kruskall-Wallis tests were conducted to test differences in responses by gender, facility type, unit, and position. Data was analyzed using Epi Info version 3.7, Microsoft Excel, and R version 3.1.2. A p-value <0.05 was considered to be statistically significant.

Results In total, 120 clinical employees participated in the study. The majority (76.7%) of respondents across hospitals have no notion of patient safety and 94.2% of all respondents expressed the desire for more training on the topic. Among participants, 71.6% were not sure or not aware of the presence of a committee in their hospital responsible for patient safety and quality improvement. Collaboration between managerial and medical staff varied across settings with high collaboration reported at the private and district hospitals and poor collaboration reported at the regional and mission hospitals. Nearly half (47.5%) of respondents stated that they would not feel safe being treated in their own hospital.

Conclusions There is considerable awareness and desire to learn about patient safety among frontline clinical employees. The main challenges regarding institutional culture include non-satisfactory collaboration between management and medical staff and low engagement on the part of hospital authorities around patient safety.

Keywords: patient safety, culture, awareness, sub-Saharan Africa, Cameroon,