Toll free number to help patients raise concerns

Friday, April 17, 2009

Pretoria - Patients who are unhappy about the Department of Health's services will soon be able to raise their concerns through a new 24 hour toll free line.

A call centre to handle complaints, concerns and patient queries is in the pipeline and the toll free number will be announced soon.

Health Minister Barbara Hogan said on Friday that as enshrined in the national Patient's Rights Charter, everyone in South Africa has the right to complain about the health care they receive.

She further said all patients have the right for their complaint to be investigated and 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," Minister Hogan said.

The minister said the most important part of improving quality was to analyse and track all complaints in order to make sure that they are avoided in the future.

She said the national call centre will help to harmonise the existing national and provincially-based complaint handling systems.

It will further strengthen the department's capacity to track and analyse data from which they can learn and improve.

"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," the minister explained.

The minister 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, is 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," Minister Hogan said.