Bid to fix failing health-care system
Incidents of the breach of patient rights – from negligence, over-servicing, insufficient care and mismanagement to overcharging – have led to the launch of an awareness campaign for patients and service providers by the health professionals’ body.
The launch on Monday, by the Health Professions Council of SA, is aimed at bringing patient rights and responsibilities and the conduct and ethics of doctors and other health-care practitioners to the fore, to allow both to work towards ensuring that quality health care is given.
“This is a rights and responsibility campaign for both patients and the service provider,” said council president Professor Sam Mokgokong.
He said the campaign would go into all aspects of health provision, from primary health care upwards, to improve the quality of health care in the public and private sectors.
Mokgokong said patients’ rights were often violated by the health professionals entrusted with their health, with the patients often unaware of the channels of recourse open to them.
HPCSA acting chief executive and registrar Dr Kgosi Letlape said the campaign was based on the commemoration of the 35th anniversary of Steve Biko’s death in custody and the improper conduct of the two attending physicians in that case.
“As the custodian of medical ethics and standards of professional conduct, we have shaped the campaign to place emphasis on human rights, patient rights, practitioner responsibility and the quality of care provided by our health-care practitioners,” said Letlape.
Letlape said patients were often unaware of the full extent of their rights and responsibilities contained in the Patients’ Rights Charter.
“They should be aware that they are responsible for their own health while the practitioner is responsible for the care given.”
Patients, he said, had the right to participate in decision-making on their health issues and to know who their health-care practitioner was and why they were being treated.
“They have a right to know of the decisions being made on their treatment and they can refuse treatment if they so choose, but this does not mean they must be thrown out of the facility. They can negotiate for other methods of treatment and be given that alternative,” he said.
Patients have the rights to a second opinion and to complain, although some do not know the channels through which to lodge complaints.
Last year alone the council finalised 116 offences reported to it. High up on the list were 26 for overcharging/charging for services not rendered and 23 for insufficient care/treatment and mismanagement of patients.
Negligence also featured high up, with fraud and theft, incompetence and unacceptable or inappropriate relationships with patients a problem.
“We have seen an increase in the costs of negligence, a lot of local government and private facilities are under siege from lawsuits amounting to millions,” the registrar said.
He said with the campaign they were provoking an influx of complaints and a possible reduction in costs against the health facilities.
“In the public sector more money from the fiscus goes into fighting litigation and in the private sector insurance and fees go up.”
Letlape said ultimately patients and practitioners funded the wrongs in service delivery and the sooner they both got on board to stop it the better.
l Complaints need to be in writing, addressed to the registrar, posted to Box 205, Pretoria, faxed to 012 328 4895 or dropped off at 553 Vermeulen St. - Pretoria News