Com­plaints en­gulf health of­fice

Business Day - - NATIONAL - Ta­mar Kahn Health & Sci­ence Writer kahnt@busi­nesslive.co.za

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).

PRI­VATE FA­CIL­I­TIES

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

/Sanele Moya

Wait­ing: Pa­tients at He­len Joseph Hospi­tal. Most of the com­plaints re­ceived by the Of­fice of Health Stan­dards Com­pli­ance were about Gaut­eng pub­lic health fa­cil­i­ties.

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