15 complaints made till date
The grievance unit, Ministry of Health (MoH) introduced its toll free hotline number 1414 a month ago so that patients can lodge complaints on the hospital care and services. The line is monitored by the Quality Assurance and Standardized Division (QASD), MoH.
The ministry aims to encourage the health staff in every hospital to take the compliant box seriously, and open it as a committee, not individually driven because there could be a conflict of interest.
Program Officer, QASD, Kinley Wangchuk, said they are also strengthening the patient’s complaint box in all health facilities.
He said they are trying to encourage patients to provide their feedback in the complaint box, which can be used by the doctors and other health staff, as positive criticism, to see where they are lacking behind and how they can improve.
People can also use 1414 hotline which is quite similar to 112 hotline. However, 1414 is not a replacement for 112.
The program officer said 112 is strictly for emergency services, such as life-threatening cases and situations like a major accident.
1414 is for non-emergency related to systematic problem, such as the patient has to wait in line for hours or sometimes the heath staff or the doctor has not turn up for the duty or have not done their duty properly, or the patient feel neglected. Grievances are more than a complaint which is not an emergency.
1414 is just a place where patients or their party can express their grievances or have their complaint lodged against the health facilities, services that they are not satisfied with or against any individual health worker whom they think that they went out of the ethics, so that the ministry can take the corrective measures to improve the system, said Kinley Wangchuk.
“1414 is a bridge, per se, like before going to Bhutan Medical and Health Council (BMHC). Sometimes it is not always medical negligence and it is a problem with a system where things can be improve or quality of service can be improved. For that reason MoH has initiated the grievance unit,” he added.
However, for medical negligence, it has to go through BMHC as it requires investigation and legal procedures.
MoH is also in the process of developing Standard Operating Procedure for the grievance center. It will look at the nature of the complaint and then investigation will be carried out.
“Sometimes we also have patients who demand too much so we will have to listen to both side of the stories and then if it is a systematic flaw, we would recommend it to BMHC,” said the program officer.
He also said sometimes patients cannot share their thoughts or complaint when they are in the hospital because of the fear that they might not be looked properly. So they complain only after they get discharged from the hospital.
“It is a positive step by MoH and we are telling patients that we are listening to their enquiries and listening to their complaints but they should also be mindful that if they can give positive feedbacks to the health facilities so that we can take positive criticism and then try implement it,” said Kinley Wangchuk.
The ministry is facing a shortage of human resources to monitor the toll free numbers. It requires 4 persons to monitor and respond to calls 24 hours for 7 days for the toll free 112.
“We have a total of 20 staff, and we have given the responsibility to receive calls of grievance unit as well. Right now, we are in the process of requesting RCSC to recruit additional four or five staff and also skilled counselor to communicate with the patients or their party just for the grievance unit so that we can attend the call 24 hours. As soon as we get additional staff, we will try separate emergency unit from non-emergency unit because there is the risk that when the hotline people are attending non-emergency call, they might miss the emergency calls. So, we are trying to segregate,” said Kinley Wangchuk.
QASD has received about 15 complaints till date. The complaint received were that the doctor was not in station, or a particular nurse was harsh. There are mixed complaints about Tsirang hospital, Wangdue hospital, a few from JDWNRH and other districts hospitals.
The complaints are lodged anonymously, but if the patients or their party want us to contact them, we ask their name and contact number otherwise, we respect their anonymity, he said.
“We have not been able to advocate much because 112 emergency toll free number is already bogged down. As soon as we receive the required number of manpower then we would be advocating the importance of 1414 in the mass media, and make people aware that there is such services and anybody can express their grievances. Their grievances will be recorded and based on their grievances, the ministry will try and take positive actions,” he said.
MoH conducted a patients’ satisfaction survey seven years ago, and according to the survey report, roughly about 91 percent of the patients surveyed were satisfied with the free health services.