Independent Complaints Commission to Attend to Unresolved Patient Grievances
The announcement of the establishment of an Independent Complaints Commission by the Western Cape Minister of Health, Theuns Botha, today introduces a new era into the handling of health clients aggrieved by inadequate service delivery at any of the department's facilities.
Botha said, "I have committed my term as provincial Health Minister to open up channels and to create an environment of transparency for our patients. I have set out to improve the overall experience at health facilities - from shortening the queues to upgrading the buildings and setting up free-flowing communication channels that work. The establishment of the Independent Complaints Commission is a milestone on this road.
"In the past two years fifty six (56) legal claims have been lodged against the Department. At present we are dealing with a total of ninety nine (99) active claims, of which thirteen (13) are considered to be indefensible. To me this was evidence enough to justify the establishment of an independent body to investigate complaints made by patients. At first we looked into the option of an ombudsman, but after thorough investigation, there was a stronger argument for an Independent Commission."
The Commission will function as an independent and objective body where the Minister or Head of Department can refer complaints when the existing structures have not resolved complaints to the satisfaction of the complainant.
The Head of the Western Cape Department of Health, Prof. Craig Househam, said: "The Department welcomes the establishment of the Commission. The independent body will enable the Department to be held accountable for services and to promote quality service for our patients. It is important to note that the function will not be located with the Minister per se, but within the auspices of the Minister and the Head of the Department."
The Commission will consist of no less than twelve (12), but not more than fifteen (15) members, representing a host of stakeholder groups, including medicine, nursing, bio-ethics, the legal fraternity, public health and public health management. There will be five (5) members from the metropole and two (2) from rural areas.
The members of the commission will be appointed through a nomination process. The advertisements to nominate members will appear in tomorrow's daily newspapers, and next week in the community and regional newspapers. Minister Botha called on the media to publicise the announcement as wide as possible to encourage a large number of nominations.
Members will be appointed for a period of one (1) year. The Minister and Head of Department will review the efficiency of the Commission on an annual basis.
Minister Botha said: "The establishment of this commission is an acknowledgment that although there are existing channels for dissatisfied clients to seek redress, these do not always meet the expectations of an independent assessment of the complaint."
The procedures for the submission of complaints include that there must be supporting documentation that shows that all other internal complaint procedures have been exhausted.
The Commission will be presented at a press conference before the 1st of December 2010.
Minister of Health Western Cape