Pretoria: The National Health Amendment Bill, which aims to improve the country’s health system, has been approved by the National Assembly.
Speaking at the second reading debate on the bill in the National Assembly on Tuesday, Health Minister Aaron Motsoaledi said although success had been achieved in reducing the incidence of HIV and Aids as well as TB, the country still faced challenges with the effectiveness of the health system.
The Health Department had identified quality as one of the key areas in dealing with the issue effectively.
With the new amended bill, the existing National Health Act will be amended to establish a public entity called the Office of Health Standards Compliance (OHSC). The body is fashioned on a similar model to the British Quality Care Commission.
It will have three units, with the first being the inspectorate. In terms of the bill, it will be mandatory for the unit inspect every health facility once every four years. Problematic health facilities will be inspected as often to avoid deterioration.
The department has sent 20 individuals to Britain to train as inspectors of South African facilities.
Once a particular facility has been inspected, it will be graded on a scale of A to F, and a report will be subsequently released publicly.
The second unit of the body will be a health ombudsperson. The public will be able to lodge complaints about the negative experiences (including non-availability of drugs and long waiting times) encountered during their visits to health facilities.
Motsoaledi said the department had by April this year trained at least 40 individuals and divide them into facility improvement teams.
“They have been moving from district to district to help institutions to improve basic standards… Unfortunately, the work is overshadowed by extremely disturbing events generally in Gauteng, Limpopo and Eastern Cape.”
The minister added that 400 unemployed graduates in the finance, human resources and ICT fields have been divided into teams and dispatched to various provinces to help in supply chain management and asset reconciliation, among others. They started work in April.