Africa - New initiative set to boost health care quality in Africa

International Journal of Health Care Quality Assurance

ISSN: 0952-6862

Article publication date: 19 July 2011




(2011), "Africa - New initiative set to boost health care quality in Africa", International Journal of Health Care Quality Assurance, Vol. 24 No. 6.



Emerald Group Publishing Limited

Copyright © 2011, Emerald Group Publishing Limited

Africa - New initiative set to boost health care quality in Africa

Article Type: News and views From: International Journal of Health Care Quality Assurance, Volume 24, Issue 6

Keywords: Quality healthcare improvement, Patient safety, Health care standards

In its current endeavours to improve the quality of care and patient safety, South Africa (SA) has the opportunity to draw on the best expertise both locally and internationally.

This was one of the main messages at a landmark conference on basic health care standards and the improvement of patient safety held in Cape Town. Attended by health quality experts from the USA and The Netherlands, and senior representatives of departments of health of at least 10 African countries, the conference culminated in the launch of the Safe-Care Initiative, a global “quality think tank” that will assist resource-restricted health care facilities to improve health care delivery through education, quality improvement programmes and financial assistance.

The initiative is a partnership between the Council for Health Service Accreditation of Southern Africa (Cohsasa), the Pharm-Access Foundation of The Netherlands and the US-based quality standards authority, the Joint Commission International (JCI).

Its launch coincides with government’s plans to establish an Office of Health Standards Compliance (OHSC) before the end of the year. To be established in terms of the National Health Amendment Bill, the regulatory body will be responsible for overseeing, monitoring and enforcing the implementation of quality standards in health facilities in both the public and private sector.

According to Dr Carol Marshall, director of the Office of Standards Compliance in the Department of Health, the new body would be a public entity and report directly to the Health Minister, Dr Aaron Motsoaledi.

Conceding that there is still a mammoth task ahead before the new body can be appointed and start functioning, she said that the DoH is currently consulting widely with organisations such as Cohsasa, the SA Medical Association and the Colleges of Medicine, the private sector and international experts on issues such as the measuring tools and standards that will be used for the certification and accreditation of health facilities.

However, much work is already being done in the public sector to audit hospitals and to introduce quality improvement programmes aimed at ensuring that hospitals comply with the National Core Standards for Health Establishments published earlier this year.

Speaking at the conference, Dr Marshall said it had become evident that SA was not using its resources optimally and that much of the problems experienced by patients in the public sector related to the poor attitude of staff.

“There are complaints that our hospital and clinic staff are rude and uncaring, that hospitals and clinics are dirty and unsafe, and patients, even those who are critically ill, wait for hours for treatment and are often turned away. This is unacceptable”, she said, warning that managers of health care facilities would be held accountable if they were shown to be neglecting their duties and patient safety was compromised.

Acknowledging that SA still has a long way to go before all facilities meet internationally recognised safety and quality standards, Cohsasa CEO and chairperson of the SafeCare initiative, Professor Stuart Whittaker, said that changing the attitudes of staff is a key requirement to improve health care delivery.

He said that the shortage of qualified personnel and funds and the enormous burden of disease in Africa, particularly in the rural areas, stopped health workers from being effective.

“The SafeCare initiative is not a quick fix but rather an in-cremental process towards excellence”, Professor Whittaker explained. He added that if properly applied, it will mean that health workers will be able to meet professional and internationally accredited standards of safety and quality, and would therefore be in a better position to provide quality and safe care to patients.

“Now, more than ever, it is important that we identify human error so that learning can take place. The evolution of monitoring quality in health care has reached the point where we have the standards and guidelines in place to influence performance and to measure outcomes so that finally patients visiting hospitals and clinics know that they will receive an acceptable level of care”, Professor Whittaker noted.

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