The Patients’ Rights Charter ensures that all South Africans have the right to quality healthcare.
It was put in place by the South African Department of Health to uphold, protect and promote patients’ rights when receiving medical care and it is important to know what your rights and responsibilities are.
According to the Constitution of the Republic of South Africa (Act No 108 of 1996), patients have the following rights:
Urgent medical care
If you are in need of urgent medical care you can be admitted to your nearest hospital and treated until you are stable, regardless of whether or not you have medical aid. A hospital may not turn a patient away until they have been stabilised.
Access to a healthy and safe environment
The healthcare facility/environment should offer adequate and clean water supply, sanitation and waste disposal etc. This is meant to promote and ensure a patient’s physical and mental wellbeing.
Participation in decision making
Your opinion matters. Medical professionals must involve patients in the decision-making processes that will impact their health.
Access to healthcare particulars
Having the right to access to healthcare entails various things:
- Patients should understand the recommended treatment and rehabilitation so that they can weigh up their options and the consequences.
- Provision should be made for special needs patients, such as disabled people, pregnant women, the elderly and people living with HIV/Aids.
- Patients have the right to counselling, without discrimination, coercion or violence. This includes counselling for cancer, HIV/Aids and other illnesses.
- In the case of terminal illness or incurable diseases, patients should be given the option of affordable and effective palliative care.
- Healthcare practitioners and providers should be courteous, patient, tolerant and show empathy.
- Patients must be given access to medical information, such as the availability of healthcare services, in a language of their choice.
Privacy and confidentiality
A patient’s information may not be disclosed to a third party without their consent or without a court order.
Get a second opinion
Every patient has the right to seek a second opinion before giving consent or refusing treatment.
Continuity of care
A healthcare professional may not abandon a patient.
Responsibilities of the patient
A patient must:
- Respect the rights of other patients and healthcare providers.
- Comply with prescribed treatment or rehabilitation.
- Look after themselves so that they can be healthy and protect the environment.
- Patients may not abuse the healthcare system and must provide accurate information about their health status.
Every patient has the right to complain if they feel a practice or professional is not obeying the law and a full investigation can be launched. Remember that with rights, come responsibilities. Ensure that you maintain a healthy lifestyle.