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How to resolve medical grievances

Healthcare, like any other service industry, experiences its own share of grievances. When a grievance arises, there must be appropriate mechanisms in place to help resolve the matters. Most people will never have any serious matters to raise whenever they interact with healthcare providers. But some will occasionally find themselves at loggerheads with healthcare providers. Knowing how to resolve any grievances comes in handy.

Why do grievances arise in healthcare? It’s mostly a result of many factors. A common occurrence is medical errors. Such errors may not necessarily end up with any harms. But some errors can cause serious harm to patients, or even end up being lethal. Unexpected complications do occur in the course of routine healthcare. They too can result into prolonged grievances while attempting to redress the consequences. Other sources of grievances are to do with communication, competence and even negligence.

The easiest way of resolving medical grievances is to maintain open communications with your healthcare team. If you feel something has gone wrong, you must raise the matter immediately. Ask for the earliest opportunity to discuss things with your doctor, or the nurse. The best healthcare teams will actually pre-empt the discussions themselves, rather than waiting for you to react to a negative situation. In most cases, talking things out resolves the majority of potential grievances.

If your healthcare team prove difficult to access, you should turn to the healthcare facility’s process for raising complaints. This should quickly escalate your grievances to the facility’s senior managers. At such levels, you should expect a speedy resolution of whatever you have raised. If your care is with an institution that has no laid down procedures for resolving grievances, then you are in for a rough time.

Sometimes unnecessary obstacles within healthcare institutions stand in the way of resolving even simple matters. In such cases, your only option is to consider using legal channels. Healthcare regulatory authorities, like the Medical Board in Kenya, have mechanisms in place to help resolve medical grievances. Such authorities can quickly engage independent experts and legal advisors to review your case. This may be an easier path in terms costs and speedy resolution of grievances.

If a medical grievance gets really bad, and attempts for easier pathways of resolution fail, heading to the courts becomes an inevitable option. Medical cases that end up in courts tend to be of very serious nature. Usually, irreversible harm has been done, or there has been an avoidable death. Beware that court cases can drag on and on for ages. Legal fees can drain your finances. And the eventual judgment may not necessarily be in your favor.

Grievances within healthcare often arise, even when there was never any intention to cause harm. Healthcare providers, and their patients, must always find the easiest pathways to resolve grievances.

Dr Alfred Murage is a Consultant Gynecologist and Fertility Specialist. amurage@mygyno.co.ke

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