Rise in health services complaints

MORE and more Queenslanders are complaining about health services with a majority unsatisfied with treatment in public hospitals.

The Health Quality and Complaints Commission experienced a 28% hike in complaints last financial year.

According to an annual report tabled in Parliament last week, 51% of complaints revolved around treatment while 15% rooted from communication and information problems.

Of the 1957 treatment complaints, 319 involved unexpected outcomes or complications.

The Commission also received 31 assault and 24 sexual misconduct complaints, both increases from the previous year.

An overwhelming majority of complaints arose out of the state's public hospitals.

However, the state's health care watchdog did not attribute the 3000-plus complaints received last year to deterioration in health services in Queensland.

"This growth may be due to Queensland's growing population and the corresponding increase in the number of health services delivered, increasing community awareness of our service as a result of our engagement strategies (or) greater healthcare consumer expectations of service safety and quality," the report reads.

As the complaints flow increased, client satisfaction over how complaints were handled dipped.

Last year, only 64% of complaint-makers were satisfied with the way their response was handled, a significant drop from 80% in 2009-2010.

While the independent body met the 30-day early resolution timeframe for 91% of cases, the increased workload put extra pressure on frontline staff.

In February, the Commission received 374 complaints, leaving their full-time resolution and assessment officers to juggle 30-50 complaints at one time.

"The growth in complaints resulted in waiting times of up to six weeks for cases to be allocated to an officer for review," the report reads.

"As outlined previously, providing a timely service in the face of increasing complaint numbers and factors outside our control...was a challenge.

"The need to keep clients well informed of case progress, particularly in longer-running cases, also presented difficulties given our limited resources."

Former health investigator and whistleblower Jo Barber handed material to the Crime and Misconduct Commission earlier this year alleging inaction by complaint investigators, including the Health Quality and Complaints Commission.

In a parliamentary crime and misconduct committee report released in July, Justice Richard Chesterman recommended the appointment of a legal counsel to investigate Ms Barber's claims.

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