South Australia Shadow Minister for Health Martin Hamilton-Smith
Health Complaints Commissioner To Be Axed
Victor P Taffa
Health Minister John Hill appears set to axe the Health and Community Services Complaints Commissioner (HCSCC) with the role to be absorbed into the Ombudsman Office raising concerns about how seriously the government takes accountability in our hospitals.
“The Opposition understands that the HCSCC has been advised of Budget cuts of up to $390,000 from a total budget of around $1.25 Million, which is over 30 % of their budget, to take effect in July 2012. I’m advised that these cuts would make the Commissioner’s position untenable.” Shadow Minister for Health Martin Hamilton-Smith said.
“The HCSCC deals with complaints about treatment and service, communication, access and waiting times in emergency departments and for elective surgery where there are significant problems.”
“Stakeholders are concerned that the current Commissioner, Ms. Leena Sudano, will not be replaced when her appointment soon comes to an end, despite the fact that the government advertised on the 3rd of December 2011 and has commenced an interview process.” Mr. Hamilton-Smith said.
“The Commissioner has significant powers and has dealt with 6,500 complaints since it was formed by Labor in 2005, according to the 2010-11 Annual Report. Why the backflip?”
“There has been a 51 % increase in new calls to the Commissioner in the year to June 2011 with 80 % of complaints closed within 26 weeks. Issues raised included complaints about poor or inappropriate service, inappropriate manner in providing services, failure to respect privacy or dignity, quality of information, access to records denied, unreasonable disclosure of information and failure to respond to complaints and a failure to meet the expected standard of service delivery.”
“The HCSCC has received criticism in the past for a failure to do more, but rather than fixing the problems to get the Commissioner’s office working more effectively, the government appears to be killing off the service.” Mr. Hamilton-Smith said.
“Community groups such as Health & Community Action Inc. have raised concerns about the measure which will reduce transparency and a Health complaints remediation process.”
“The Minister must now reveal his plans and indicate how this axing of the Commissioner’s role will improve openness and accountability within our hospitals, city and country.” Mr. Hamilton-Smith said.