An unhealthy system

Last week we devoted this column to the shocking state of our public health system, and bemoaned the fact that nothing seems to have been done to rectify this sad state of affairs. As if in answer to this, a report appeared in a local newspaper after an interview with the minister of health, Dr Aaron Motsoaledi, entitled Motsoaledi on Warpath.

A new statutory body, the Office of Health Standards Compliance, was launched in Pretoria last week. The inspectors of this body will in future assess cleanliness, infection control, waiting times and the attitude of staff at the hospitals. An audit of every clinic and hospital in the country in 2011 put the average score for cleanliness at 50%.

The attitude of heath-care staff was rated at 30%. According to the minister, the new body and its inspectors will change standards in hospitals. The 27 inspectors and the 14 yet-to-be-appointed inspectors will inspect nearly 4 000 health facilities. In the past 18 months, the 287 inspectors returned to 727 facilities to assess their progress since the 2011 audit.

These steps are in preparation of the soon-to-be-implemented National Health Insurance Scheme. An ombudsman will also be appointed to deal with patients’ complaints. This will go a long way in answering the questions about the health system we asked last week. A newspaper reported on Sunday that only one out of 394 hospitals and clinics passed all acceptable standards in an audit conducted by the health department, which included assessments of cleanliness, infection control and drug stock; as well as acceptable staff attitudes, patient safety standards and reasonable waiting times.

Elaine Strauss

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