The South African Medical Association (SAMA) says the non-compliance of health and safety standards at public health facilities is cause for great concern, and that government must act swiftly to reverse what it describes as a dangerous situation.

“Compliance with the Occupational Health and Safety Act protects patients and healthcare providers. Without complying with this important legislation, health facilities are exposing doctors and patients to a high risk of violent or biological injury and even death. Non-compliance of OHS standards is unacceptable and urgent steps are needed to deal with those facilities which do not follow the rules,” says Dr Angelique Coetzee, chairperson of SAMA.

She says the Department of Labour must investigate compliance at public health institutions, and that heavy penalties must be imposed on non-compliers.

Dr Coetzee’s comments come after an interview earlier this month in which Gauteng Health MEC, Dr Bandile Masuku, noted that all public health facilities in the province – audited between 2017 and 2018 – failed to comply with OHS standards.

“Our members are made to work in unsafe and dysfunctional public health facilities which severely compromises their ability to serve patients safely and effectively. OHS standards protect against violent or biological threats, but if there is little or no compliance, healthcare providers and patients are vulnerable and at risk,” says Dr Coetzee.

She says that SAMA hopes the commitment by the Gauteng Provincial Government of R1.5bn to ensure compliance at healthcare facilities in the province in fact materialises and is not merely paying lip service to OHS compliance.

In addition to calling on government to address compliance urgently, SAMA has called on its members to report instances of non-compliance of OHS standards to it.

Apart from the issue of OHS compliance, Dr Coetzee says SAMA is taken aback by comments by the MEC that “MRI machines don’t save lives”, and that CT scans and X-rays are only used to approve a diagnosis.

“Dr Masuku’s assertions are ill-informed. As medical professionals we do not regard these machines – and the data they provide – as luxuries. They are necessary for appropriate diagnoses of specific conditions and inform the correct evidence-based treatments. In fact, MRI scans allow focused and appropriate treatment in a myriad of musculoskeletal conditions,” notes Dr Coetzee.

Dr Coetzee says if South Africa is to achieve quality universal healthcare, there must be an appreciation and understanding of the importance of essential equipment, and for the government to maintain this equipment. She says SAMA views a failure to maintain this equipment as a waste of already scarce resources.

Sadly, this results in not only the deaths of patients, but also contributes to medical negligence and related exorbitant claims,” she concluded.

 Source:  SAMA statement