Are the Health’s Providers in South Sudan Certified Professionals or Merely a Bunch of Exploiters?

Posted: June 26, 2012 by PaanLuel Wël Media Ltd. in Featured Articles, Health

Are the healths providers in South Sudan (both foreign and citizens) qualified/certified professionals or merely a bunch of exploiters?    

Is there any Legislation/Act that protects the consumers of health & disability services in South Sudan? What are the criteria used to decide whether a health professional is certified and allowed to practice, for instance as a doctor? I will really appreciate if someone in South Sudan or elsewhere that is familiar with the system can enlighten me about the general health system in the country.

Health is an extraordinarily sensitive area that requires immediate attention of any given government to make sure that the consumers of health & disability services are protected by the laws of the land.  Otherwise, if not, the government will never know if the rights of its citizens (consumers) are being respected until serious misconduct surfaces or detected in the long run. I know we still have a society where doctors and other professionals are considered with high regards and virtue – nobody dares to question their conducts, whether right or wrong. This is because they are either trusted or people feel inadequate (who am I to question the doctors?) to question them as well as maybe fearful that if they do, they will not be given the treatment they deserved.   
There is a need for a Legislation/Act as well as set up equivalence to the New Zealand’s Health & Disability Commissioner to protect the rights of the consumers, and here is why.  I was compelled to find out more information about the health system after I had found out my mother’s eye was hurt by those who claimed to be “Eye specialists” in Wau.  What even drew my interest is my work in this area (in New Zealand) as Specialist Advocate (Health & Disability Commissioner) and I am quite familiar with the health system – consumers’ rights and providers duties whenever providing health & disability services.     
New Zealand has a Legislation/Act called “Code of Consumers’ Rights” that protect the consumers of Health or Disability. There are 10 Rights that includes:  
1.      Respect and Privacy: You should always be treated with respect, including respect for your culture, values, beliefs and personal privacy.
2.      Fair Treatment: No-one should discriminate against you or push you into doing something or making a decision that you are not comfortable with.
3.      Dignity and Independence: Your care and treatment let you live a dignified, independent life.
4.      Appropriate Standards:  Everyone looking after you should work together to make sure that you are treated with care and skill and that you receive the right services for your needs.
5.      Communication: You have the right to be listened to, understood and receive information in whatever way you need. Where possible, an interpreter should be provided if you need one.
6.      Information: Your condition should be fully explained to you, to allow you to make choices for possible treatments. You should be given information on the benefits and side effects of treatments and told how long you may have to wait, who will be treating you and any costs involved. You can ask any questions about the services and expect an honest and accurate answer.
7.      It’s your decision: It is your decision whether to go ahead with treatments or not and you are able to change your mind at any time.
8.      Support: Your condition should be fully explained to you, to allow you to make choices for possible treatments. You should be given information on the benefits and side effects of treatments and told how long you may have to wait, who will be treating you and any costs involved. You can ask any questions about the services and expect an honest and accurate answer.
9.      Teaching and Research: All these rights also apply when you are taking part in teaching or research.
10.  Complaint: You can make a complaint about any aspect of your care or treatment. You should be given information on the process involved in making a complaint so it is easy for you to do so. Your treatment should not suffer if you do make a complaint.
How this unique Code of Consumer Rights is the only Code of Right of its kind in the world with legal rights for consumers and matching duties for providers who are required to respect these rights. It is highly valued by New Zealand consumers. This Code came as a result of an independent inquiry into the actions of the medical profession at National Women’s Hospital in relation to women with cervical cancer. The Commissioner of Inquiry found out that the women patients were not told about their condition or treatment options; discouraged from asking questions about their treatment; entered into research studies without their knowledge or consent as well as being treated without respect.
The Commissioner made a number of recommendations for improving the imbalance between patients and doctors. These were later extended in the Act to include all health and disability consumers and providers. Three key recommendations were for enforceable CODE of RIGHTS as well as Advocates to be on the side of patients/consumers.
The advocate assists consumers who bring their complaints forward about the health or disability services they are unhappy with, as well as provide training/education sessions to both providers and consumers. Serious violation and breaches of the above 10 Code of Consumers’ Rights can lead to prosecution. For example, a doctor who seriously breaches this code can be sent to the Medical Tribunal for disciplining as well as lost his/her license to practice in New Zealand as well as possibly in the group of the Five Country Conference (FCC) (i.e. New Zealand, Australia, Canada, the United Kingdom and the United States of America). The Governments of FCC work together to exchange information about the high-risk situation to reduce the impact of fraud.   
Inappropriate eye operation
My instinct is telling me that there might be a lot of medical negligence and apparent violation of consumers of health & disability rights. I am particularly concerned about how foreign health providers are exploiting the country merely to make money out of the vulnerable populace. This came to my awareness after my own mother‘s eye (one) was operated on in Wau (to remove what they called water in the eye?) and I don’t think it was done by a competent /qualified specialists. It has been four months now since she has this surgery, but she cannot see using that eye. I & my brother who is also in the Diaspora were not informed that it was going to be an operation or how deep it was going to be; otherwise, I/we would have taken her to a neighboring country (e.g. Kenya).  
We eventually decided to take her to Juba for a follow-up and a second opinion and the specialists there (whom I believed were much competent) discovered that there were substantial gashes on her eye, which were caused by that operation. To be precise, she was seeing quite well with that eye before the surgery – it was just that the eye was getting a bit dimmer (something quite normal especially when people get old)…these doctors claimed that there were some water in it, which can be basically removed to see well again. I am trying to find out if South Sudan has any relevant legislation or Act to such carelessness. In other words, I want to make sure that these self-claimed Specialists are not allowed to hurt more people, and I am facilitating with my relatives on the ground to find out if there are laws surrounding such medical misconducts, and probably take them to Court. It’s quite frustrating because of the distance.        
Finally, I would like to appeal to the law makers to frame legislation like the above if there is nothing in place yet to protect the consumers. I am sure many lives will be safe and damages prevented. However, implementing it is an essential component that the laws are adhered to; therefore, it is imperative that a Commission is set to reinforce such legislation as well as inform or educate public (consumers) and providers’ health & disability alike.   
Of course, an appropriate (government sponsored) research is required to determine how the current health system can be ameliorated – such investigation can impart the policy and decision-makers to produce an informed Legislation/Act.      
I am happy to be contacted, lest if advocates of health & disability services in South Sudan would like to know how this Code of Consumers’ Rights in New Zealand is sub-guarding and helping the consumers in terms of improving the health and disability systems and holding providers to their professional duties in New Zealand.    

Santino Atem Deng
M.Ed (Hons) Counselling
New Zealand

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