By Emsie Martin
Not everyone has a medical fund, and sometimes it is necessary to be reminded of your rights as a patient. The Patients’ Rights Charter of South Africa is a document compiled by the National Department of Health and explains your rights and responsibilities when you have to go to a place where your health is taken care of.
Every patient has the right to:
A healthy and safe environment
Everyone has the right to a healthy and safe environment that will ensure their physical and mental health or welfare.
Participation and decision-making
Every citizen has the right to participate in the development of a health policy, as everyone has the right to participation in decision-making about matters that affect their health.
Everyone has right of access to health care services, which include:
- Emergency care received timeously at any health care facility that is open, regardless of your ability to pay;
- Treatment and rehabilitation that have to be divulged to the patient so that the patient can understand the treatment or rehabilitation and the consequences thereof;
- Providing special needs in the case of new-born babies, pregnant women, the elderly, people with disabilities, patients who are in pain, persons living with HIV or Aids patients;
- Counselling without discrimination about matters such as reproductive health, cancer or HIV/Aids;
- Alleviation care that is affordable and effective in cases of incurable or fatal diseases;
- A positive attitude by all health care providers who demonstrate politeness, human dignity, patience, empathy and tolerance;
- Health information that includes the availability of health services and the best utilisation of such services and that this information will be provided in the language best understood by the patient.
Information about your own health insurance / medical aid scheme
A member of a health insurance or medical aid scheme is entitled to information about that institution and, where necessary, may contest the decision of such institution with regard to the patient.
Choice of health services
Everyone has the right to choose a specific health care provider for services or a specific health facility for treatment, provided that the choice does not conflict with the ethical standards where applicable for such health care providers or facilities.
Treatment by a designated health care provider
Everyone has the right to be treated by a trained person or an approved health institution.
Confidentiality and privacy
Information regarding your own health, including information about treatment, may only be divulged with informed consent, except where it is required on the basis of a court order.
Everyone has the right to receive complete and accurate information about the nature of his or her illness, the diagnostic procedures, the proposed treatment and the relevant costs, to make an informed decision that may affect any of these elements.
A person may refuse treatment and such refusal may be verbal or in writing, provided that such refusal will not endanger the health of others.
Everyone has the right to request to be referred to a health care provider of his or her own choice for a second opinion.
Continuation of treatment
No-one shall be turned away by a professional health care worker or a health care facility that initially accepted responsibility for the person’s health care.
Complaints about health care
Everyone has the right to submit a complaint about health care services and to have such complaints investigated and to receive complete feedback about such investigation.
Your responsibility is:
- To protect your health.
- To conserve and protect the environment.
- To have respect for the rights of other patients and for the rights of the people who take care of your health.
- To take care of your information about your health, such as your clinic or hospital card.
- To provide the necessary and correct information to the people who take care of your health, so that they know exactly what is the matter with you, can give you the correct treatment, and prescribe the correct care and counselling.
- To collect information about which health care services are available in your area.
- To use the available health care services correctly and not abuse them.