(Jan. 26, 2011) On January 24, 2011, the South African Department of Health released a proposal, the National Health Amendment Bill, which, if approved by the National Assembly, will establish an oversight body — the Office of Health Standards Compliance (OHSC) — with the task of ensuring that healthcare providers around the country comply with minimum standards set by law (Bill to Help Improve Quality of Healthcare, BUANEWS ONLINE (Jan. 25, 2011), http://tinyurl.com/67as2sv).
The OHSC will have two objectives: attending to complaints by consumers and ensuring compliance by healthcare professionals and institutions with government norms and standards (National Health Amendment Bill, §77, South African Health Department portal, http://www.doh.gov.za/docs/discuss-f.html [click on legislation and then select bills] (last visited Jan. 25, 2011)). The OHSC will have three units (Inspectorate, Accreditation, and Ombudsman) that will carry out several different functions, including:
- advising the Minister of Health on the development of norms and standards for the national health system;
- making sure that health establishments comply with set norms and standards;
- issuing certification of compliance to healthcare facilities; and
- investigating complaints. (Id. at §78; see also BUANEWS, supra.)
The Ombudsman, assisted by the Inspectorate, will be required to investigate anycomplaint of improper conduct by a healthcare professional or institution and will have subpoena powers (National Health Amendment Bill, §81(A)(7)(9)). The Ombudsman reports findings of its investigations to the Executive Director of the OHSC (id.§81(A)(11)). All healthcare providers, public and private, will be required to obtain accreditation from the Accreditation unit (BUANEWS, supra).
The Minister of Health plans to send the proposal to the National Assembly for floor action in the 2011 legislative calendar (National Health Amendment Bill, supra). In the meantime, the Department of Health has invited all interested persons to submit comments on the proposal (id.).