Previously unpublished government records paint a grim picture of a failing public health system, a worrying lack of disclosure about its shortcomings, and an oversight mechanism that has done little to raise standards. Data obtained from the Office of Health Standards Compliance (OHSC), based on inspections it conducted in the four years to March 31 2016, show that only 89 of the 1,427 public hospitals and clinics had met the office’s 70% pass mark. And of the 320 facilities that were subjected to repeat inspections, the vast majority failed to improve in any significant way between visits. The office used 13 metrics, ranging from the availability of medicines to operational management, to rank the facilities, and each of those comprised several components that were weighted according to the gravity of the threat they posed to patient safety. Umhlanga Clinic in KwaZulu-Natal, which scored just 18% when it was inspected in 2014 and failed to meet the 70% compliance threshold for a s...

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