An initiative aimed at improving the quality of healthcare in resource poor settings in Africa was launched in Cape Town yesterday.
Driven by the US-based Joint Commission International (JCI), the Dutch-based PharmAccess Foundation and the locally based Council for Health Service Accreditation of Southern Africa (COHSASA), the SafeCare Initiative has already been tested in Tanzania and will be rolled out to several African countries.
SafeCare’s mission is to become the leading body for the promotion and implementation of safe healthcare in resource restricted settings by developing realistic standards for healthcare facilities.
These facilities are measured against a set of criteria and then accredited at different levels depending on the quality and standard of healthcare.
‘I am sometimes accused by colleagues of wanting to bring a Rolls Royce to Africa, but I really want to bring a sturdy Land Rover that will get me through the muddy roads,’ said PharmAccess Program Director Dr Nicole Spieker.
‘Currently nobody wants to pay for healthcare in Africa because the quality of healthcare is so low,’ said Spieker.
A 2006 World Health Organisation report found that Africa suffered 24% of the global burden of disease, but had access to only 3% of health workers and less than 1% of the world’s financial resources ‘ even with foreign grants and loans.
COHSASA CEO and SafeCare chair Professor Stuart Whittaker cautioned that the initiative was not a quick fix, but an incremental process towards excellence.
‘The health facilities, some of them coming in at very poor baselines, will gradually improve their ability to provide safe and quality healthcare and along the way they will be awarded certificates that mark their progress towards achieving excellence,’ said Whittaker.
PharmAcess’ expertise is focused on data collection and early upgrading activities as well as assistance with improving the facilities’ financial situations via innovative models that recently received an award from US President Barack Obama at the G20 meeting.
‘The Initiative’s step-wise improvement process can be used by governments, donors, health insurers, social investors and loan providers to implement performance-linked financing incentives in tandem with medical quality improvement,’ explained Professor Tobias Rinke de Wit of PharmAccess.
The JCI will make available standard and evaluation methods designed to provide quantifiable benchmarks for quality health care, we well as a set of e-training models.
COHSASA will offer web-based information that will guide the process towards quality improvement and accreditation by measuring compliance levels against the standards and identifying problems areas that need to be fixed.
South Africa’s health department is in the process of setting up an Office of Standards Compliance. This has been identified as a critical step towards transforming the health system as part of the National Health Insurance system.