Health standards body says SA still far from providing safe healthcare for all

17 September 2021 - 12:40
The Office of Health Standards Compliance inspects hundreds of health establishments each year to measure their performance against prescribed norms and standards. Stock photo.
The Office of Health Standards Compliance inspects hundreds of health establishments each year to measure their performance against prescribed norms and standards. Stock photo.
Image: 123RF/HXDBZXY

SA has a long way to go in building healthcare management systems that reduce risk to patients.

That’s the word from Dr Siphiwe Mndaweni, head of the Office of Health Standards Compliance (OHSC), on Friday, which is World Patient Safety Day.

Under the National Health Act, the OHSC is charged with ensuring health establishments – from major hospitals to clinics and practices of doctors and other health professionals – comply with legislated health standards.

“Many standards we are tasked with enforcing are designed specifically to pre-empt and prevent adverse medical events from occurring,” said Mndaweni

“Healthcare professionals are only human, and they often operate under pressure, so the systems in which they work need to have built-in safeguards. Many guidelines and procedures that exist in good healthcare practice are there to ensure patient safety.”

The OHSC performs hundreds of inspections of health establishments each year to measure their performance against prescribed norms and standards. The process is being gradually expanded to take in more categories of health establishments.

It started in 2019 with public clinics and community health centres, expanded in 2021 to include public and private hospitals. It plans to extend to general practitioners’ practices and emergency medical services.

“In light of our experience with inspections, we recognise it will take commitment and endurance to get our country to the point where all our health professionals work in supportive environments and good-quality, safe healthcare is available to every individual.”

This year World Patient Safety Day focuses on safe and respectful childbirth. Globally there are 810 preventable maternal deaths and 6,700 newborn baby deaths each day.

“Much of our work relies on international evidence on the risks to patient safety and preventive interventions,” said Mndaweni.

“SA, however, has excellent local data on maternal deaths which has been analysed with insight by the committee. This has led to recommendations which have largely been implemented by provinces and led to progress in reducing the mortality rate.”

Mndaweni said the work of the OHSC would also impact positively on maternal and infant health.

“We believe many of the standards we strive to embed across health establishments would also strengthen the care provided to mothers and their babies.”

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