SAnews.gov.za (Tshwane)

20 November 2012

South Africa: Compliance Office Bearing Fruit in Health Sector

Johannesburg — The Office of Health Standards Compliance operating in the National Department of Health is starting to see some improvements, says Health Director-General Precious Matsoso.

Addressing hospital CEOs, who attended a seminar on Quality Standards and Compliance on Tuesday, Matsoso said the office - with initially a small team of inspectors - carries out external inspections to check on the level of compliance with the set standards in health institutions.

The two-day seminar, which started on Tuesday, is being held in an effort to address the quality of health care.

The purpose of the seminar is based on future legislated functions of the Office of the Health Standards Compliance; to provide guidance to hospital CEOs on compliance with quality standards and norms and relevant monitoring tools, and to discuss the actions needed.

Other aspects that the seminar will address are roles and needs of CEOs in achieving compliance and benchmarking of inspections results.

The release of the National Health Amendment Bill in 2011 paved the way for the establishment of an independent body to help improve the quality of healthcare in public facilities.

The bill provided for the creation of an independent entity, Office of Standards Compliance, whose primary purpose is to ensure that state hospitals and clinics comply with minimum health standards.

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

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.

The office ensures that complaints received from healthcare users or the public are properly and independently investigated.

"The Bill to amend our Health Act will hopefully be law within a year. This period prior to the law coming into effect is a valuable opportunity to learn and test, both for the inspectors, but most especially for the facilities... Will they be compliant when the future regulator arrives?" said Matsoso.

Matsoso warned that across the board, non-compliance in certain areas will suggest that the responsibility lies above the individual establishments, hence the provision in the Bill for a written response from the 'person in charge of a health establishment' setting out the reasons for non-compliance.

"The law is a powerful tool. It reflects political commitment to the stated goals in a way that few other things do. For people in your position, this is of great importance, that is why it would be important that CEOs see this process as one that will ensure they must make things work... It will also make it important that those who support them make things work too," Matsoso told CEOs.

In a bid to ensure excellence and the successful implementation of the goals set in the health sector's Human Resources for Health Strategy, Health Minister Aaron Motsoaledi recently unveiled the Academy for Leadership and Management in Health Care.

The academy will address skills gaps at all levels, including clinical and hospital management.

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