South African Medical Association

Universal Health Coverage

For many decades the vast majority of the South African population has experienced either a denial or violation of fundamental human rights, including rights to health care services. To ensure the realisation of the right of access to health care services as guaranteed in the Constitution of the Republic of South Africa (Act No 108 of 1996), the Department of Health is committed to upholding, promoting and protecting this right and therefore proclaims this Patients Rights Charter as a common standard for achieving the realisation of this right.

Patients Rights

1. Healthy and safe environment
Everyone has the right to a healthy and safe environment that will ensure their physical and mental health or well being, including adequate water supply, sanitation and waste disposal as well as protection from all forms of environmental danger, such as pollution, ecological degradation or infection.

2. Participation in decision-making
Every citizen has the right to participate in the development of health policies and everyone has the right to participate in decision-making on matters affecting one's health.

3. Access to health care
Everyone has the right of access to health care services that include:

  1. 1. receiving timely emergency care at any health care facility that is open regardless of one's ability to pay
  2. 2. treatment and rehabilitation that must be made known to the patient to enable the patient to understand such treatment or rehabilitation and the consequences thereof
  3. 3. provision for special needs in the case of newborn infants, children, pregnant women, the aged, disabled persons, patients in pain, persons living with HIV or AIDS patients
  4. 4. counselling without discrimination, coercion or violence on matters such as reproductive health, cancer or HIV/AIDS
  5. 5. palliative care that is affordable and effective in cases of incurable or terminal illness;
  6. 6. a positive disposition displayed by health care workers that demonstrates courtesy, human dignity, patience, empathy and tolerance
  7. 7. ealth information that includes the availability of health services and how best to use such services and such information shall be in the language understood by the patient.

4. Knowledge of one's health insurance/medical aid scheme
A member of a health insurance or medical aid scheme is entitled to information about that health insurance or medical aid scheme and to challenge, where necessary, the decisions of such health insurance or medical aid scheme relating to the member.

5. Choice of health services
Everyone has a right to choose a particular health care for services or a particular health facility for treatment provided that such choice shall not be contrary to the ethical standards applicable to such health care providers or facilities and the choice of facility is in line with prescribed service delivery guidelines.

6. Treated by a named health care provider
Everyone has a right to know the person that is providing health care and therefore must be attended to by only clearly identified health providers.

7. Confidentiality and privacy
Information concerning one's health, including information concerning treatment may only be disclosed with informed consent, except when required in terms of any law or an order of court.

8. Informed consent
Everyone has the right to be given full and accurate information about the nature of one's illnesses, diagnostic procedures, the proposed treatment and the costs involved for one to make a decision that affects any one of these elements.

9. Refusal of treatment
A person may refuse treatment and such refusal shall be verbal or in writing provided that such refusal does not endanger the health of others.

10. A second opinion
Everyone has the right to be referred for a second opinion on request to a health provider of one's choice.

11. Continuity of care
No one shall be abandoned by a health care professional worker or a health facility that initially took responsibility for the persons health.

12. Complaints about health services
Everyone has the right to complain about the health care and to have such complaints investigated and receive a full response on such investigation.

Responsibilities of the patient
Every patient or client has the following responsibilities:

  1. To take care of his or her health.
  2. To care for and protect the environment
  3. To respect the rights of other patients, health workers and health care providers
  4. To utilise the health care system optimally and not to abuse it
  5. To know his or her local health services and what they offer
  6. To provide health workers with relevant and accurate information for diagnostic, treatment, rehabilitation.

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