Bill to help improve quality of healthcare

Tuesday, January 25, 2011

Pretoria - The release of the National Health Amendment Bill has paved the way for the establishment of an independent body to help improve the quality of healthcare in public facilities.

Released on Monday, the much awaited bill provides for the creation of an independent entity, Office of Standards Compliance, whose primary purpose will be to ensure that state hospitals and clinics comply with minimum health standards.

The establishment of the office follows government's commitment to improve the quality of healthcare in public health facilities and the strengthening of health systems effectiveness through enhanced accountability.

Health Minister, Dr Aaron Motsoaledi, has expressed his disappointment with the level of healthcare in many of the country's public hospitals and has, through his performance agreement with the President, committed himself and his department to improving this situation.

A set of six quality priorities for fast-tracking improvement have been identified, these include safety and security, long waiting times, drug availability, nursing attitude, infection prevention and control and values of staff.

Dr Motsoaledi said the office will ensure that complaints received from healthcare users or the public are properly and independently investigated.

The office will also advise the Health Minister on the development of standards, norms and quality management systems for the national health system, inspect and certify health establishments as compliant with prescribed norms and standards and monitor indicators of risk as an early warning system relating to breaches of standards.

Once established, Dr Motsoaledi explained that the office will be divided into three units, including an inspectorate, accreditation and ombudsman to handle public complaints about poor services.

"We will go to the institutions unannounced to monitor if the standards are being carried out and with the ombudsman, members of the public should be able to share their experiences in the health centres," Dr Motsoaledi said.

In terms of organisational design, he said the bill proposes that the office be headed by a qualified executive director and supported by competent personnel, including health officers (inspectors), who may enter any health premises to inspect compliance with the standards.

He added that the office will also pave way for the implementation of the National Health Insurance (NHI) as the provision of quality care will be one of the core requirements for the NHI.

All health centres, including private ones, will have to get accreditation from the office.

Members of the public are invited to submit their comment on the proposed establishment of the Office of Health Standards Compliance. The draft bill is available on the department's website: www.doh.gov.za.

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