Independent Complaints Advisory Committee Appointed to Investigate Health-Related Matters
The Western Cape Minister of Health, Theuns Botha, has appointed the members of the interim Independent Complaints Advisory Committee, which will serve as a temporary body while provincial legislation is drafted to establish a statutory body that will investigate unresolved health-related complaints independently.
The legislation will position the statutory body as an independent and objective structure where the minister can refer health-related complaints when the department's investigation could not resolve the complaint to the satisfaction of the complainant. It is estimated that the legislation will be ready by February 2013.
The five persons appointed to the interim committee are:
- Prof Wynand van der Merwe, former dean of the faculty of health sciences, University of Stellenbosch, who will chair the committee.
- Adv Patrick van den Heever, High Court advocate and member of the Cape Bar.
- Prof William Pick, former lecturer in public health, University of Western Cape.
- Ms Mercia Isaacs, executive chair of Vuya Investments and chairperson of the GF Jooste Hospital Board.
- Ms Willemina Niewoudt, a former nursing director at Karl Bremer Hospital and former board member of the SA Nursing Council.
Minister Botha said, "During the pilot phase of the original Independent Complaints Commission, several operational problems were identified that relate to the patients' rights and the legal conduct of such a structure in the public domain. Problems also included the commission's contractual relationship with the Western Cape Government and their entitlement to access patient documentation. However, the pilot phase provided unprecedented insight into the operations and functions of such a body. The draft legislation is based on the lessons learnt."
Advertisements for nominations for the interim committee were placed in daily Cape newspapers and the closing date for nominations was end March 2012. The advertisement stipulated that persons nominated must be citizens of this province, and may not be employees of Western Cape Government.
The advertisement specified that the nominations should have skills, knowledge and experience in one or more of the following fields:
- Legal, including medico-legal.
- Human rights.
- Public service.
The terms of reference states that should a nominee not be accepted, Minister Botha and the head of the department, Prof Craig Househam, would follow a consultative process to propose a suitable person. After receipt of the nominations, a consultative process was followed to find additional suitable nominations to meet the requirements for knowledge and experience on healthcare, because the nominations did not include sufficient expertise in this field.
The members are appointed on a one-year contract basis in accordance with the Public Service Act. Minister Botha may nominate further members on an ad hoc basis. A similar public participation process will then be followed.
Complainants who feel that the department's investigation had not resolved investigations to their satisfaction can write to Minister Botha or Professor Househam. The writing must include the original complaint, in writing, and subsequent written replies from the facility manager.
Cases will only be referred to the committee when the department's investigation had not resolved health-related complaints to the satisfaction of the complainant. However, Minister Botha and Professor Househam can refer cases directly to the committee at their discretion.
On completion of their independent investigation, the committee will make recommendations to bring the unresolved matter to a satisfactory conclusion. The committee will provide reports to Minister Botha and Professor Househam twice a year.
The terms of reference states that the committee will not entertain labour- and employment-related matters, which should be directed through the grievance and labour law procedures.