Cape Town: The Department of Health’s Director-General, Malebona Precious Matsoso, has welcomed a Human Science Research Council (HSRC) survey which has revealed that the majority of South Africans are satisfied with how they are treated in public hospitals and clinics.
The 2012 SA National Health and Nutrition Examination Survey, which was released last week and surveyed over 25 500 people, revealed, among other things, that 80% of those in outpatient facilities and 85% of inpatient facilities reported that they were treated respectfully.
Added to this, at least 85% of those in inpatient and outpatient facilities reported that facilities were clean, while 85% in inpatient facilities and 78% in outpatient facilities reported favourably on the availability of medication.
Matsoso said the department was as surprised as researchers on the survey’s findings on the public’s perceptions of public health facilities.
“We are also surprised,” she said, adding that the improvement in the public perception was in line with the findings of a 2011 audit that the department conducted at its 4 000 facilities.
Matsoso said the audit had picked up that waiting times, and to a lesser degree staff attitude and cleanliness, were problems, but she noted that the department had noticed a gradual improvement in the standards from 2011 to this year.
Commenting on the finding by the HSRC survey that only 60% of those in outpatient facilities reported that they were happy with waiting times in the public health system, compared to 88% in private facilities, Matsoso said the department was looking at addressing this.
She said waiting times were mainly a problem for those that queued to pick up medication and added that the department is in talks with pharmacies to allow those with repeat prescriptions to pick up medication there instead of at clinics.
The department is also putting in place information systems in public health facilities in a bid to ease the queues.
Last month, President Jacob Zuma signed the National Health Amendment Act into law, which will enable the Health Minister Dr Aaron Motsoaledi to establish the Office of Health Standards Compliance.
Matsoso said the office will allow members of the public to lodge complaints of poor service to an ombudsman and allow for punitive measures to be taken against health care workers that are found not to be upholding the standards.
She said the office would help to narrow the gap between the perception of those using the private health system and the public health system.
“People must be comfortable in whatever they choose,” she said.
Meanwhile, the acting chief executive of Government Communication and Information System (GCIS), Phumla Williams, said government commended all public healthcare officials for their commitment and dedication, and called for their continued support towards improving public health service delivery.
“The figures are evidence of the great strides that government has made in strengthening health systems and improving health care since the advent of democracy,” said Williams.