Work ahead for SAMHS to improve service


Satisfaction responses around the 70 to 80% mark as well many scathing comments indicate the SA Military Health Service’s (SAMHS) quest to become “a world class clinical service” still has some way to go.

This is evident from the first ever client satisfaction survey conducted by the fourth arm of service of the South African National Defence Force (SANDF).

Conducted across all nine provinces at military hospitals, sickbays and the specialist Institutes for Aviation and Maritime Medicine, the survey findings will be followed up to improve various aspects of medical service to the wider South African military population. This is because SAMHS caters not only for serving members of the SANDF and their dependents, but also provides the full spectrum of medical care to retired soldiers and veterans.

The survey was in the form of a 21 item questionnaire covering, among others, lack of resources; professional conduct; state of SAMHS facilities; waiting time; satisfaction or otherwise with service; travelling distances to SAMHS facilities; perceived inequality of treatment and timeous account payments when referred to outside specialists.

In conclusion, the Military Psychological Institute, which conducted the survey, noted “largely positive experiences” reported by the just on 4 600 patients who responded.

Other the negative side, recently appointed Surgeon General Lieutenant General Aubrey Sedibe now knows where efforts must be directed to improve the level of medical care and treatment if he wants to make his predecessor’s aim of SAMHS becoming a world class clinical service reality.

Among complaints and comments received were some scathing of specific aspects of military healthcare.

These ranged from “at times there were delays and I did not get my medicine” to “service is poor, few doctors and many patients”, “poor service, waste of time”, “doctor very unfriendly”, “third time back at the same doctor, why weren’t proper examinations done”, “emergency staff needs to be improved, waiting times in lines are long, bigger budget needed”, “if people answer phone at the pharmacy it sounds like a bazaar”, “there is no communication between patient admin and nursing office and doctors”, “the sickbay has deteriorated over the last two years and members working there don’t care”, “service is too slow and I think there must be more staff”, “service is unfriendly and hostile”, “some people are treated special, more especially whites”, “staff need to be helpful and more understanding of patients’ needs” and “officers and NCOs need to be treated the same”.

On the positive side a number of those questioned indicated they were “more than happy” with treatment, polite and helpful communication and prompt attention from medicals staff, including doctors, nurses and pharmacists.
“The survey results will be used as a tool to identify areas where there are shortcomings and right matters. At the same time areas which have been identified as being good will be used as examples to show what can be done,” SAMHS Colonel Louis Kirstein said.