The recently released health audit is a true reflection of conditions that nurses are often blamed for in South Africa's health facilities, a trade union said on Wednesday.
"[The Democratic Nursing Organisation of SA] views the audit outcome on the country’s public health care facilities as a true reflection of the conditions and challenges confronting both patients and health professionals on a daily basis, and hopes its recommendations will be taken to heart," said spokesman Sibongiseni Delihlazo.
The "National Health Care Facilities Baseline Audit" of every health care facility was conducted between May 2011 and May 2012, with funding from the national health department.
It found that public health facilities in South Africa collectively scored less than 50% compliance with vital measures in two out of the six ministerial priority areas.
Measures included in the audit
These measures included patient safety and security (34%) and positive and caring attitudes (30%).
Overall, facilities in Gauteng obtained the highest compliance score on quality (69%) while the Northern Cape reflected the lowest (40%).
In terms of performance in the five functional areas (clinical services, infrastructure, management, patient care, support services and clinical care), clinical services scored the lowest with 38%.
Researchers found that the availability of functional and essential medical technology equipment in maternity wards needs priority attention, considering the high maternal mortality rates in the country.
It said hospitals and primary health care facilities throughout the country show a "high percentage failure" with the availability of medicines on the essential drug list and that this also needed attention.
Denosa said the report showed 93% of maternity wards do not have functional and essential equipment to keep mothers and newborn babies safe.
"We believe that this is an answer to the country’s currently high child mortality rate," Denosa said.
Bad relationships between public and health professionals
Denosa warned that due to these infrastructural problems, relationships between the community and health professionals at public health facilities are deteriorating to the lowest level, as communities often believe that nurses are to blame for the wrongs that occur in healthcare facilities.
Staff morale is affected by shortages and unreliable supplies, as well as the non-payment of health workers at times. Doctors and nurses' safety is also not guaranteed.
Denosa said it supported Health Minister Aaron Motsoaledi’s suggestion that the department might have to become involved in the hiring of security staff. It said this should not be done through tenders as tenders prioritise profit, not security.
The union supported the SA Medical Association's Positive Practice Environments campaign which called for tighter compliance with procurement for health infrastructure.