Public Protector reiterates call for neo-natal deaths submissions

Public Protector Adv. Thuli Madonsela on Tuesday evening reiterated her call for submissions on neo-natal and infant deaths in public hospitals.

She was speaking at a roundtable discussion addressed by her United Kingdom (UK) counterpart, Dame Julie Mellor (DBE), focusing on the transformation of the UK National Health System through ombudsmanship and how South Africa can learn from that.

Dame Mellor is the UK Parliamentary and Health Service Ombudmsman (PHSO). Her office, whose remedies - in stark contrast to the Public Protector - enjoy a 100 percent compliance from organs of state, has two key mandate areas, namely the entire UK public service and the health sector.

The Public Protector used the opportunity to re-invite persons affected by neo-natal and infant deaths to submit representations as part of a systemic investigation, which kicked-off early this year. Affected parties have until 15 March to make submissions.

The Public Protector told delegates, including Judge President for North and South Gauteng High Court, Dunstan Mlambo, Chairperson of the South African Medical Association Dr Mzukisi Grootboom and the Director-General of the Department of Health, Precious Matsotso, that her office was looking forward to integrating lessons from the PHSO investigation observations in the systemic investigation.

She is currently conducting three systemic investigations involving the Department of Health. Apart from the one on neo-natal and infant deaths, the Public Protector explained that two other investigations focus on alleged management and procurement failures at Chris Hani Baragwanath Hospital in Soweto and systemic deficiencies in the provision of healthcare services as alleged during Stakeholder Consultations in 2012.

Speaking about the neo-natal and infant deaths investigation, the Public Protector said: “We decided to proceed with investigations whilst recognizing the transformation initiatives that are being taken by the Minister (of Health). We will work with the Department of Health to play a role in identifying some of the administrative failures that may undermine the good transformation initiatives that the Department is desperately undertaking.”

She further reiterated her support for the establishment of a Health Ombud, saying that this will ensure speedy and quality resolution of health service complaints.

Dame Mellor’s presentation focused on the importance of resolving complaints for individuals with a view to providing restorative justice to individual patients failed by the health sector and enabling the individual institutions involved to learn from their mistakes.

She expanded at length on the importance of sharing information and insight from the complaints her office receives, both with regulators in terms of safety and quality, and with the providers of services. Identifying cross-sector issues, where such matters could be picked up with the Department of Health, Parliament, regulators and commissioners of service was also key on that front.

Dame Mellor also discussed the significance of helping the health sector embed good quality complaints-handling so that it can put things right and improve services.

Since her arrival in the country at the weekend, Dame Mellor has attended a Public Protector outreach and education clinic in Katlehong, east of Johannesburg, to observe, with a view to applying a similar approach in the UK. She has also shown interest in the Public Protector’s alternative dispute resolution mechanism. The two offices have a cooperative agreement that encourages mutual support and benchmarking.

For more information, contact:

Kgalalelo Masibi
Spokesperson Public Protector South Africa
012 366 7006
079 507 0399

Published Date: 
Wednesday, February 27, 2013