There is a widespread perception that services in hospitals have seriously deteriorated over the past few years, due in large part to staff shortages and the growing HIV/AIDS epidemic.
Only 10% of people polled in a recent Research Surveys survey said that they trusted state hospitals, while half said hospitals gave poor customer service and a third said they “do not get things right”. The media is also filled with stories and letters about people being poorly treated when visiting hospitals.
In what amounted to an acknowledgment that all is not well in the country’s hospitals President Thabo Mbeki said his State of the Nation address to Parliament on 3 February this year: “To improve service delivery in our hospitals, by September this year we will ensure that hospital managers are delegated authority and held accountable for the functioning of hospitals, with policy issues regarding training, job grading and accountability managed by provincial Health Departments which themselves will need restructuring properly to play their role.”
Last year, the Democratic Alliance listed “the five worst hospitals” in the country. However, it did not establish baseline norms and standards against which to make this judgement, nor did it assess all of the 388 public hospitals to select the worst.
During December 2005 and in the run-up to the March 2006 local elections, the Health Minister has been paying “surprise visits” to various hospitals and pronouncing many to be working well – sometimes simply on the basis that the floors are clean!
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