Hurray! South Africa Appoints Its First Public Protector Of Health


This move by the health department is really a commendable one. The roles of a public health protector in the country can never be undermined. Of a truth, health is wealth and the importance of staying healthy can never be over emphasized.

I hope you know that illness doesn’t care about how wealthy or poor one is whenever it comes knocking?. Hence, the need to put some ‘necessary’ systems and infrastructure in place so that people can ‘easily’ have access to healthcare when the need arises.

Also, it is no news that most times patients or their relatives sometimes face difficult times putting across their complaints whenever they feel the wrong button is pressed by healthcare providers. At other points, such people don’t even know who or where to run to.

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All these and more necessitated the appointment of health service ombudsman. An ombudsman is a somewhat independent authority, usually appointed by government or parliament to represent the public’s interests.

So, in order to take care of public and private complaints, South Africa unveiled its first health ombudsman. The position went to former University of KwaZulu-Natal vice-chancellor Malegapuru Makgoba.

Confirming the development on Tuesday in Parliament, Health Minister Aaron Motsoaledi said, SA’s new health public protector’s function will be “to investigate and dispose of the complaints laid by patients and the public in general against health establishments and health workers. He will act as the public protector of health.”

Profile Of SA’s Health Public Protector

Makgoba was the former VC of University of KwaZulu- Natal for 10 years. He was succeeded in 2014. The new ombudsman is also an internationally recognised molecular immunologist.

Meanwhile, the university has expressed happiness with Makgoba’s appointment. It also stated that former VC really played a “significant role” in encouraging young‚ black scientists to engage in research.

“His stance on HIV/Aids at a time when South Africa found itself at the height of AIDs denialism is a reflection of his great courage‚” the university said.

South Africa’s health public protector is expected to get the ball rolling on June 1.

Last year, health minister Aaron had revealed that the health department would be advertising for the position of an ombudsman. He made this known at the Medico Legal Summit in Centurion.

Motsoaledi has warned at that times that doctors are so fearful of medical negligence claims that they are extremely reluctant to perform surgeries – a situation that got to crisis point and was having a detrimental effect on mothers and children in particular.

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At that time, the minister said, “It is no longer going to be business as usual. When the Ombudsman office is established, we are going to make sure that there are consequences. Because this office will have a routine of reporting, they are not just going to investigate and come to find you and keep quiet.

The findings must become public. They must know who’s doing what in practice and who’s not doing what. There must be massive improvement in clinical governance.”