Durban hospital’s NHI model working
Durban - The wheels of government’s proposed National Health Insurance (NHI) plan appear to be moving, and while many South Africans remain uncertain over how it will be applied, there is hope it could work - if one success story at Durban’s RK Khan Hospital is anything to go by.
Let’s face it, many South Africans decry state health facilities, with critics of the NHI often citing shortages and overcrowding in public health care among their reasons.
But RK Khan Hospital stepped into that challenge, implementing a revolutionary approach to reducing waiting times at its pharmacy - a model scooping a top award in Africa for its innovation in service delivery. Ironically, it is a success story that’s been quiet in the making, without fanfare or media attention, with the hospital’s remarkable turnaround only coming to light after their award.
The plan, it seems, was simple, cost effective and encapsulated the essence of a primary health care approach where communities and the state work together in improving health outcomes.
Hospital chief executive Dr Prakash Subban explained: “We were faced with huge challenges in our pharmacy waiting area which was an extremely congested place with more than 1 800 outpatients attending daily.
“This coupled with a shortage of pharmacists resulted in extremely long waiting times, frustrated and agitated patients and dissatisfied staff who had to work extended hours every day to cope with the workload. We had to come up with a way to address all of this within our budget constraints.
“We decided to engage with our local community centres which included temples, churches and community halls and together devised a programme where a member of our pharmacy is now based at these centres on certain days and times for patients to collect their chronic medication.
“We still screen patients at the hospital but then refer them to their closest participating community centre to collect their medication on a regular basis. This has led to a reduced waiting period and less congestion at the hospital.
“The centres chosen are all close to transport routes so many patients now go directly to these centres instead of coming to the hospital pharmacy.
“We have 13 community-based centres involved in the project and it’s been very successful.
“Of course we are absolutely thrilled to have been recognised for this effort by winning the top award in Africa in Innovative Partnerships in Service Delivery at the All Africa Public Sector Innovation Awards recently held in the Republic of Congo,” Subban said.
Subban says he is thrilled at the role their project has played in overcoming some of the obstacles in public health care which has resulted in, among others:
* Reduction in overtime worked.
* Health workers have more time to counsel patients and to ensure that they know how to take their medicines as these venues offer a more relaxed and comfortable atmosphere.
* Hospital decongestion leading to better outpatient service, with waiting time reduced from four hours to a maximum of two hours.
It is an impressive feat, and so successful is RK Khan’s approach, that the Department of Health in KZN says it is considering rolling out something similar across the province.
“We are ecstatic and proud of RK Khan Hospital winning this award and its model demonstrates what the NHI is about. It is a model which involves the community, working around local challenges and empowering people to take responsibility,” said KZN Health Head of Department, Dr Sibongile Zungu.
“The RK Khan model in addressing overcrowding is certainly one we would like to see implemented throughout the province and we are considering this,” she said.