The Public Relations department is headed by the Public Relations Officer who reports to the Secretary General. This department is the first port of call for the Authority’s visitors. This is the organization's information hub where print and electronic publications, advertising, website and database management are dealt with.
The Public Relations Officer is responsible for managing the organizations image through quality control initiatives and stakeholder engagement exercises crafted from the five-year Strategic Plan document. The department aligns itself with the organisation’s operations to ensure that customers get the best service. As an Authority we believe feedback from our clients and stakeholders will help us build lasting relationships and assist us in improving on service delivery. We believe communication is a two-way process where we both are listeners and respondents.
The department also plays a critical role of forging relationships between HPA and the various stakeholders. By registering its presence at different stakeholder events, the Authority is able to build rapport and improve on visibility. The department is also responsible for organising HPA events and ensuring that they are well attended.
HPA STANDS FOR PUBLIC INTEREST
Before the coming of the Health Professions Authority on 1 July 2001, there was the Health Professions Council (HPC) which was there to look after the health worker and the patient was excluded. Patient right under HPC was given second class attention, if there was any and the patient therefore had no voice. The Health Professions Authority came into being to address this situation by ensuring that there was a balance between health worker and that the patient voice should be heard.
Some players in the medical industry might say the medical profession is over regulated. However, we have to look at the nature of the medical profession, as it is the profession that deals with matters of life and death. The public go into health institutions expecting to get better and not to be killed. Hence the need for strict measures, control, checks and balances in the medical industry. The medical profession has a lot of responsibilities that call for increased oversight to ensure people do not unnecessarily lose life. The Health Professions Authority public interest role is undertaken in three broad terms as follows:
- Being the umbrella body for the seven councils.
- Being the appellant body for members and their councils.
- Protection of public interest.
Each one is dealt with in detail low:
Acting as umbrella body for the seven councils
The specific role played is articulated in Sections 5 (a) and (b) of the Health Professions Act.
Being the appellant body for members and their councils
The Health Professions Authority provides adjudication process for members and councils to ensure that councils do not transgress at the disadvantage of members. There is therefore need for an oversight role by the Health professions Authority over the activities of the councils and their members. If a member is not happy with treatment given by his/ her council he is required to appeal to HPA and from HPA it goes to High Court.
Protection of public interest
- This done through:
- Overseeing activities of Councils.
- Inspections of Health Institutions.
- Acting as an appellant body for the public not satisfied with decisions of the council in handling their complaints.
The majority of inspections that are being carried out are for the protection of the public. Zimbabwe has one of the most advanced health delivery system in Africa because of the role inspection plays in the delivery of quality healthcare. The fact that our health personnel is competitively sought overseas is testimony to this. The Health Professions Authority plays a critical role in ensuring that health providers are setting and operating health shops which do not harm the public. HPA is thus necessary to a civilized society.
The only constraint we face is adequate funding to enable the Health Professions Authority reach every corner of the country carrying out inspections. As for the public to be protected, the Health Professions Authority needs substantial funding from the fiscus to ensure that health institutions are inspected, standards are met and patients are receiving quality of service. In developed economies, like Australia, the inspection budget is funded 100 % by the fiscus.
In Zimbabwe, the role of the Health Professions Authority cannot be under estimated as it is there for the needs and expectations of the public. That is to say, HPA is there and exists for national interest. It is only that during the hyperinflation era, HPA was dormant and inactive as it had no funds to carry out inspections throughout the country. With the coming of the multi currency system, HPA is now up and claiming its ground in the health delivery system.
We are repositioning HPA as an entire new management outfit at HPA and we will be more active and seen in all the areas of the country carrying out our public duty and enforcing the Zimbabwe Patients Charter which stipulates the following patient rights:
QUERIES AND ENQUIRIES
PROCEDURE FOR LODGING A COMPLAINT
For members of the public who want to lodge a complaint against a health practitioner the procedure is as follows:
- They should first identify the relevant council to which the health practitioner belongs and,
- Forward a written complaint to that applicable council. If the members of the public are not satisfied with response from the applicable council,
- Appeal to the Authority.
The Zimbabwe Patients Charter was developed from recommendations by the Consumer Council of Zimbabwe (CCZ) and the Ministry of Health and Child Welfare to offer protection to consumers and improve health service delivery. The Charter spells out general consumer rights to access healthcare and treatment.
Patients Rights can be described as social and individual rights. Social rights cover aspects such as the quality and accessibility of healthcare, while individual rights relate to basic human and consumer rights. The Zimbabwe Patients Charter has two sections.
- General Rights to Access and Treatment.
We would like to emphasise that it is very important that members of the public are aware of their rights when they enter health institutions and that they should receive education on these rights.
GENERAL RIGHTS TO ACCESS AND TREATMENT
Under general rights to access and treatment, patients have a right to access the health system at the time of need, both as non paying and paying patients. In the event that patients have contact with the Health Service, it is important for them to remember that the Health Service is there to respond to their needs. General rights to access and treatment deals with hospitality, confidentiality, privacy, discrimination, choice and redress of grievances.
1. Hospitality (Health Care)
A patient has the right to be accorded courtesy and to be treated with respect in a safe and clean environment.
Save for the requirements of the law, all information concerning a patient’s illness or personal circumstances will be kept in confidence and used only for the purposes of their treatment. A patient has the right to details of his/her treatment and diagnosis.
A Patient has the right to privacy during consultation, examination and treatment. A patient shall therefore be interviewed and treated in surroundings designed to ensure privacy and shall have the right to be accompanied during any physical examination or treatment if they so wish.
4. Discrimination (Human Treatment)
A patient has the right to be received and attended to without regard to sex, age, religion, colour, creed, tribe, race and socio-economic status. This also means that optimal health care must be provided to all citizens at the right cost.
Patients must exercise their right to choose health workers who provide them with treatment or advice, the place and type of treatment that is provided. After being informed of the possible options, patients have the right to refuse or halt any medical interventions. Patients are also allowed to seek a second opinion at any given time while consulting the same medical or health care delivery system.
6. Redress of Grievances
Patients shall have access to appropriate grievance handling procedures. They have the right to claim damages of injury or illness incurred or aggravated as a result of the failure of the health professional to exercise the duty and standard of care required of him or her while treating them. Patients shall have the right to legal advice as regards any malpractice by health care professionals.
1. Admission and Stay in Hospital
In the event of an accident or emergency, patients should be attended to by a Health Worker immediately upon arrival, assessed and dealt with appropriately. Whether the patient is admitted as an emergency or not, hospital staff shall inform the patient’s relatives or next of kin or whoever the patient wishes, where practicable. Patients shall be given clear information about their illnesses and conditions and the treatment plan for their recovery.
In some cases, treatment might necessitate the need for operative procedures. In the event that surgery is anticipated in patient’s treatment plan, the patient has the right to be consulted and to be informed about the nature of the operation. Where risks are known, the patient should be informed. If a patient is 18 years of age and above, he/she has the right to give consent to the surgery. Patients who are under 18 years of age are covered by parents, legal guardians, etc.