Gauteng Health MEC Nomantu Nkomo-Ralehoko is frustrated with the daily complaints the department receives from patients, some of which escalate into incidents where people may be harmed or die during care.
She said the department’s investigative process found that many hospital complaints and incidents in which patient safety was compromised arose from a failure to adhere to a basic principle of courtesy, as outlined in the Batho-Pellet Doctrine.
She was speaking during a quality assurance seminar on Friday.
Last week, responding to written parliamentary questions from MP Mbale Dlamini of the EFF, Health Minister Dr Joe Phalla said the medico-legal lawsuits against the government have drained state coffers of over R4 billion, which has been paid out in just three fiscal years.
The minister said that a large part of the money was paid out to claimants in Gauteng, Western Cape, KwaZulu-Natal and Limpopo.
Gauteng had 178 cases for which the provincial health authorities paid R339038978.70.
Nkomo-Ralehoko reported last month that 788 newborn babies have died in Tembisa Hospital from infections and complications related to immaturity, hypoxia and congenital anomalies since 2020.
In May, it said more than 900 children had died from preventable accidents at Chris Hani Paragwanth Hospital between 2020 and 2022.
When former health ombudsman Professor Malegapuru Makgoba left the office in May, he criticized the “Mickey Mouse-led” health department in Gauteng.
He said his office investigated 10,861 complaints during his tenure, and Gauteng accounted for more than half of the complaints.
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It is no secret that there is widespread dissatisfaction among the public with regard to the treatment provided in our hospitals. Complaints about the quality of care are frequently voiced on radio programmes, further highlighting this problem. Recently, a disturbing incident was circulated on a social media platform, where a patient recorded a video of a busy nurse on the phone instead of taking care of patients. While I lack specific details about this incident, it undoubtedly paints a negative picture of our service.
When patients sought medical help, Nkomo-Ralihoko said, they were often in weak states, both physically and emotionally.
“Pain, discomfort, and anxiety can accompany their condition, making it essential to create an environment that recognizes and meets their needs. By actively listening, observing nonverbal cues, and engaging in open and empathetic communication, we can better understand each patient’s unique experiences and concerns.”
The Ministry of Education and Culture said it wanted to reassure Gauteng residents who had had a bad experience and had contacted management that their complaints would be heard.
“We understand the importance of your feedback and take your concerns very seriously. The experience of everyone in our healthcare system is important, and we are committed to addressing any issues brought to our attention. We are committed to promoting a culture of accountability and transparency in our healthcare organizations.”
She said the ministry launched the “I serve with a smile” campaign in response to the need for a transformational approach.
“Through this campaign, we can foster a culture that celebrates kindness and professionalism. It encourages us to go the extra mile,” she said.