In the aftermath of the Life Esidimeni tragedy in Gauteng and concerns raised about possible human rights violations at the Tower Hospital in the Eastern Cape, the South African Society of Psychiatrists (Sasop) has undertaken a campaign to encourage health professionals to expose abuse.
Sasop president Bernard Janse van Rensburg maintains in a report in The Citizen that medical and health professionals have an “ethical duty and responsibility to act in the best interests of their patients”, although this often led to criticism and harassment of whistle-blowers.
The report says in pushing the advocacy awareness drive, Sasop has partnered with the rural health action project to assist in the training of its members, who include psychiatrists, occupational therapists, nurses and psychologists.
“Some people argue that professionals as salaried government employees do not have the authority to publicly engage in advocacy and should rather adhere to the principle of the Public Service Act which discourages employees from criticising policies and practices.
“Yet, this same legislation expects from healthcare providers to put the public interest first in the execution of their duties,” said van Rensburg.
He said medical professionals were on the frontline of health care delivery and witnessed daily the impact of irregularities on lives of patients.
Clinicians, said van Rensburg, should apply their mandate in line with the Protected Disclosures Act (Act 26 of 2000) as amended in 2017 (Act 5 of 2017), “to speak out when patients’ human rights are violated, report incidents of malpractice, fraud, corruption, maladministration and management of facilities as well as lack of patient care and or neglect.”
“Reporting on such wrongdoing promotes individual responsibility and organisational accountability.
“If they remain silent, clinicians enable and contribute to a culture of impropriety,” he added.The Citizen report