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Healthcare-service quality, an unfolding tradegy

Published in Health · 11 March 2013
The reputation of the Minister of Health has worsened substantially in a number of areas since September 2012 – with a significant improvement in only one area. This is the conclusion reached by a survey completed in January 2013, which shows substantially poorer results than an earlier survey conducted in September 2012. The survey was commissioned by Patient First and is conducted by Acentric Marketing Research on a quarterly basis. The survey is conducted amongst an online sample of over 300 South Africans (see technical note).

“The overall performance score has dropped precipitously, from a high of 15% in February 2012. There was a slight reversal of trend in September 2012, when the overall score recovered to 10% from a previous low of 7% in June, but it seems the decline has recommenced, with the score for the January 2013 period settling at a new low of 2%.” says Craig Kolb, spokesperson for Acentric.

The minister’s work related to hospital management, was the worst performing area. At present only 2% of respondents regard his performance as ‘very good’ a decline of 4% over the previous period. The minister’s work to reduce the problem of obesity is also seen in a similarly poor light.

The next worst in terms of ranking, are perceptions regarding the ministers performance in dealing with the shortage of doctors and nurses (3% regard this as ‘very good’), while escalating private health costs (4%) and renal dialysis (4%) are also poor performers.

“In absolute terms, these ratings were already poor, and the fact they have fallen even further is a concern. I believe that this reflects what is happening on the ground – based on our Hospital Service Standards Barometer. The general publics’ perception is most likely influenced by a combination of personal experiences, word of mouth and the media.” says Father Stan Muyebe, spokesperson for Patient First.

The largest decline relates to the minister’s work to reduce the number of individuals infected by HIV (-11%). This was followed by his work to tackle the problem of obesity (-8%) and his work to ensure babies receive full immunisation within the first year (-8%).

The only area to show a significant improvement over the previous period, was the minister’s initiatives aimed at increasing life expectancy.

It appears patients hold a similar view to the general public. The Hospital Service Standards Barometer, a tracking survey conducted by Patient First with analytical assistance provided by Acentric, involves interviewing over 10,000 hospital outpatients a year as they leave government hospitals in KZN. In most areas the 2012 results are substantially worse than in 2011.

Particularly noteworthy are the 18% who report that the pharmacy was out of stock of the required medication at the time of their visit, the 74% who report that pharmacies are failing to explain dosage information and the 25% who report that the hospital had lost their patient file.

Technical note: The survey was conducted between December 2012 and January 2013. A random sample of respondents was drawn from an ISO certified online panel maintained by Acentric Marketing Research. Post-weighting was applied to correct for non-response bias and to improve representation of the demographics of those living in the major urban centres (metropolitan areas). In total 300 interviews were used in the analysis, providing a 5.7% margin of error at a 95% confidence level.

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