20 April 2009
South Africans who are unhappy with the country’s public health services will soon be able to raise their concerns through a 24-hour, toll-free line that is being set up to handle complaints, concerns and queries.
Health Minister Barbara Hogan said in Pretoria last week that everyone in South Africa had the right to complain about the health care they received, in line with the Patients’ Rights Charter.
She added that patients had the right to have their complaint investigated and to receive a full response on the investigation.
“The immediate informal responses by frontline health workers should be supplemented, where needed, by an objective investigation, which reassures the public and patients that their complaints are taken seriously,” Hogan said.
Hogan said the most important part of improving quality was to analyse and track all complaints in order to make sure that they were avoided in the future, adding that the national call centre would help to harmonise existing national and provincially based complaint handling systems.
“It could also be used in the future to record and track other problems for example complaints from our staff themselves or reports from them on serious situations that they have identified in their work that need attention,” she explained.
Better clinical care
Hogan said the department was also looking into another initiative, which focuses on ensuring the best clinical care to be offered to patients in potentially high-risk situations like intensive care units or operating theatres or receiving specialised antibiotics.
The initiative, she said, was being developed through a private sector task team, including some hospitals and medical aids that aim to reach out to include the public sector.
“The initiative is drawing on a type of campaign method that has been very successful at mobilising health care teams in both the United States and in the United Kingdom and is now spreading across a number of other countries,” Hogan said.