During the past 17 years there has been a noticeable trend in COHSASA’s history: loyal clients. This is interesting given the nature of quality improvement programmes which, in effect, ask clients to pay for a hearty shove from their comfort zone. Some clients do find it quite difficult at the start of the programme but many of them keep coming back because as quality efforts gain traction and become part of a daily routine, the benefits of meeting standards and reducing risks for patients and staff outweigh the efforts.
One of these persevering clients is the Thermal Coal Highveld Hospital and its satellite health centres which together form the Centralised Health Services Department of Anglo American Thermal Coal.  At a joyous celebration at the Thermal Coal Highveld Hospital in Emalahleni (Witbank) on November 20 2012, the hospital received its fifth accreditation from COHSASA (2012-2015) with a score of 98 and the New Vaal Colliery Health Centre (just outside Vereeniging) received its third accreditation award with a score of 99.
Also celebrating achievements in accreditation at the festive event were the Goedehoop Health Centre, the Kriel Colliery Health Centre and the New Denmark Colliery Health Centre. These centres entered into the COHSASA accreditation programme a few years after the hospital but are now firmly entrenched in quality improvement methodology. Their first accreditation awards were given in 2008 but they have achieved uninterrupted accreditation awards since then with the latest awards valid until 2014 and scores in the region of 98 and 99.
Speaking at an event to mark this feat, Thermal Coal’s Head of Operations, Dave Haselau, congratulated medical professionals for their sustained demonstration of excellence. “All facets of our company form part of Anglo American’s drive to be the leading global mining company. It is great to know that our medical services continue to achieve world class standards,” he said.
Above: Professor Stuart Whittaker hands over the fifth accreditation certificate for Anglo American Thermal Coal Highveld Hospital to former Matron, Esther Botha.
Since 1999 the hospital has kept an enviable quality record: it was previously accredited from 1999-2001 (after embarking on the programme in 1997), 2002- 2005, 2007- 2009 and 2009-2012 and during that time, external surveyors said the hospital had “continuously maintained” standards, which was commendable.
Regional Medical Manager, Dr Jan Pienaar, who has overall responsibility for the hospital and the four off-site health care centres said at the ceremony, “Like safety, the road to quality is a never-ending journey. We are motivated and have pride in what we do,” adding that healthcare in the mining industry places exceptional demands for excellence on professionals in the field.
Dr Pienaar visited COHSASA HQ in Cape Town in August in a run-up to the accreditation ceremony at the hospital and told staff members over an impromptu tea and an informal “certificate handover” that from a situation in 1996 when he was ready to leave because standards at the hospital were not acceptable, he now manages a world-class facility that has in place a framework to deliver the highest quality health care to mine employees and their families. Furthermore, he believes that without their 15-year long relationship with COHSASA, Thermal Coal Highveld Hospital would no longer exist.
“I firmly believe that if we had not built a quality improvement platform for monitoring our health service delivery to our mining employees and their families, this mine hospital – the only one left in the coal industry – would not exist today. COHSASA’s systemic requirement for continuous quality improvement means that the hospital today delivers health care against the best standards.”
Above: Dr Jan Pienaar of Anglo American Thermal Coal Hospital (holding certificates) surrounded by COHSASA staff.
In tandem with the COHSASA QI programme Dr Pienaar has developed a real-time, web-based electronic health records system which provides a feasible and realistic solution to gathering and managing patient data as well using technology to monitor patient activity and disease treatment pathways. Talks are underway to incorporate this into the COHSASA IT framework to create one of the most comprehensive and advanced quality information systems in the world.
Professor Stuart Whittaker (left) hands over the New Vaal Colliery accreditation certificate to Dr Jan Pienaar in preparation for the November celebration.