Complaints engulf health office
The statutory body charged with assessing the quality of hospitals and clinics was so short-staffed it could not cope with the volume of complaints it was receiving from patients, its CEO told parliament on Thursday.
The Office of Health Standards Compliance (OHSC) will shortly assume the responsibility of determining whether health-care facilities meet the grade to be accredited for providing services under National Health Insurance.
It was formally established three years ago but it still does not have the legal weight to inspect private health-care facilities or enforce penalties on persistent offenders.
The OHSC saw a surge in the number of complaints in the year to March 2018, and managed to respond to barely half of them within six months, its CEO, Siphiwe Mndaweni, told parliament’s portfolio committee on health as she presented its 2017/2018 annual report.
The OHSC received 1,122 complaints during the 20172018 financial year, compared with 730 the year before.
The number of complaints increased partly in response to the highly publicised Life Esidimeni scandal, in which 144 state mental patients died, said Mndaweni.
She said the OHSC’s capacity to respond to complaints was hampered by the fact that its staff complement had not changed during the period under review and by slow responses from health-care institutions. Half the posts in its complaints centre and its investigation unit stood empty.
Most complaints were about public health facilities in Gauteng (378), followed by KwaZulu-Natal (138).
She said that new norms and standards for health facilities would come into effect in February 2019, at which point the OHSC would begin inspecting private facilities.
The OHSC had developed an enforcement policy, with proposed fines for persistent offenders, but it has not yet been approved by the health minister. Once approved, it would be gazetted, said Mndaweni.
“The office has a responsibility to ensure there is clear understanding of how enforcement will take place against persistently noncompliant institutions,” she said.
ITS CAPACITY TO RESPOND TO COMPLAINTS WAS HAMPERED BY THE FACT THAT ITS STAFF COMPLEMENT HAD NOT CHANGED
Waiting: Patients at Helen Joseph Hospital. Most of the complaints received by the Office of Health Standards Compliance were about Gauteng public health facilities.