Cape Town - Private hospitals could soon publicise their success and failure rates – a move that will help consumers compare their performance and that of their doctors.

During the public hearings of the Market Inquiry into Private Healthcare in the city yesterday, at least two major hospitals – Life Healthcare and Mediclinic – said they were prepared to publish this information to help consumers make informed decisions when seeking health services.

It is widely believed the fear of losing profits was behind unwillingness to release information.

Dr Adam Pyle, executive for policy, strategy and funder relations for Life Healthcare, told the five-member panel that the group was “certainly considering” publishing data on quality of services, but he stopped short of giving exact timelines.

“We don’t know... it could be next year. We will take the issue back to the executive board for further discussions.

“These discussions had been happening since 2008, but on a haphazard basis,” he said.

Pyle said the dilemma was how the information should be released, and there was concern about releasing this information when competing private hospitals were not releasing similar information to allow comparison.

Asked by committee chairman, Sandile Ngcobo, whether consumers were not entitled to know the quality of services offered by each hospital before making a choice, Pyle said: “We agree in principle that a patient should have the information on a hospital or doctor, but we still have concerns about releasing this information when there is not going to be any comparison with our competitors.”

Sixty-eight submissions, totalling 15 000 pages had so far been made to the commission.

This week the fourth leg of the first round of its public hearings started.

So far the inquiry has held public hearings over the past two weeks in Joburg and Pretoria.

Mediclinic’s chief executive, Koert Pretorius, also expressed willingness to publish such information, citing that the group was the first to publish clinical key performance indicators as early as 1998.

The inquiry also heard that private health care was not immune to staff shortages and a lack of skilled staff.

While denying that it deliberately reduced its nursing staff over the years, Dr Sharon Vasuthevan, of Life Healthcare, admitted the number of nurses per ward had dropped, and there were less skilled nurses than before.