Northern Cape clinic runs out of patient file covers

Patient confidentiality is under threat due to shortages of file covers at Northern Cape clinic.
Patient confidentiality is under threat due to shortages of file covers at Northern Cape clinic.

Kuruman Clinic, a primary care public health facility, has been short of patient file covers for six months.

The clinic, which is situated within the property of Kuruman’s main government hospital, services township areas such as Wrenchville and Promised Land, offering health services such as HIV testing and counselling, TB treatment and other chronic illness treatment and general wellness services.

But for the past six months the clinic has been regularly running out of patient files, according to staff members who asked to remain anonymous because they are not authorised to speak to the media.

They claim the matter has been reported to the district office, but there has been no response.

In the past the files were received from the Northern Cape Department of Health (DoH) offices in Kimberley, without orders even having to be placed.

But that service has suddenly stopped, a staff member said.

Patient confidentiality compromised?

In order to maintain patient confidentiality, admin staff started using the covers torn off old school exercise books in order to cover patient files in order to keep information hidden.

"Issuing a patient’s record without a file cover compromises the quality of their confidentiality," explained one of the staff members.

Sylvia Leabile, President of Phenomenal African Women (PAW) in the Northern Cape, has offered to sponsor the clinic with files if they are given permission to to so.

"Should it be allowed, PAW will partner with the DoH and campaign to raise funds towards the file covers,” said Leabile.

Right to confidentiality

One of the clinic patients said she had a right to confidentiality and it was the Department of Health’s responsibility to protect the content of their files in such a way as to avoid other patients reading or viewing the information – one of the dictates of South Africa’s Patient Rights Charter.

Another patient, Angeline Moremedi, said that before the clinic introduced the system of keeping all patient files at the clinic, patients used to have their own booklet detailing their history.

Their visits were recorded in the booklet which the patients kept with them and would bring with to their clinic visits.

“If we were allowed to take our files home, we could see to it that they were properly covered and protected ourselves,” Moremedi said.

Health-e News contacted the Northern Cape DoH’s communication officer for comment, and she is still waiting for approval from her seniors to respond.

Further efforts to reach the DoH by Health-e have been unsuccessful.

— Health-e News

Image credit: iStock

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