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'Quality is key in health sector'

The DG of the Department of Health says without quality NHI will never be a reality in SA.

Director General of the Department of Health Precious Matsoso. Picture: Supplied

JOHANNESBURG -The Director General of the Department of Health Precious Matsoso says unless quality is dealt with in the sector, National Health Insurance will not become a reality in South Africa.

Speaking to Talk Radio 702's John Robbie on Wednesday morning, Matsoso stressed that quality is a key component of access to health services.

She was speaking in response to perennial reports that conditions and treatment of patients in public hospitals have not shown any improvement.

Matsoso said new legislation that came into effect earlier this month establishing the Office of Health Standard Compliance, will help the department deal with the key concerns affecting patients in public hospitals.

She said this office will have an ombud as well as inspectors who will actually go into facilities.

Matsoso added that through the new legislation, the department will also come up with punitive measures for those who don't want to comply.

Gauteng MEC for Health Hope Papo, who also spoke to Robbie, said while there are staff members who have a bad attitude, when his department receives reports of maltreatment it always acts quickly.

Papo said the issue of attitude has nothing to do with staff training because South Africa's nursing is among the best in the world.

Matsoso said poor staff attitude is often due to insufficient training. She said as a result the department has set up a programme aimed at training clinical specialists, particularly in the maternity sector.

"It's not just attitude, but also the capacity of health workers that work in maternity wards."

Papo echoed Matsoso's comments and said public hospitals aren't equipped with sufficiently trained maternity nurses and that's why there is a strong focus on training nurses.

Matsoso said conditions in which people work are also partly to blame for poor attitudes by staff but added that there are also hard working people at public hospitals, even against the backdrop of these problems.

Papo urged members of the public to come forward if they know of instances of abuse of patients in public hospitals.