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The Council for Health Service Accreditation of Southern Africa (COHSASA), a not-for-profit organisation in Cape Town, South Africa, assists a wide range of healthcare facilities to meet and maintain quality standards. This process enables the facilities to provide safe, quality services to their patients and families.

In the past 26 years of operation, COHSASA has worked in over 600 facilities in both the public and private sectors in 14 African countries including South Africa, Botswana, Swaziland, Lesotho, Namibia, Rwanda, Nigeria, Uganda, Zambia, Tanzania, The Democratic Republic of the Congo, Ghana, Egypt and Kenya. COHSASA runs quality improvement and accreditation programmes in hospitals, clinics, hospices, day surgery centres, environmental health offices and rehabilitation/sub-acute establishments.

There is a strong focus on building capacity. The COHSASA programme helps healthcare professionals to measure themselves against standards. This approach teaches healthcare workers how to monitor improvements using quality improvement methods, internationally accredited standards and a web-based information system.

COHSASA has achieved global recognition and is the only sub-Saharan health facility accrediting body that is accredited by the International Society for Quality in Health Care (ISQua). External Evaluation Association (IEEA). Since it achieved its first accreditation award from ISQua in 2002, the Council has maintained its accredited status with four further accreditations. Its current ISQua accreditation status is valid until December 2022.

The following COHSASA standards are accredited by ISQuaEEA:

  • COHSASA Healthcare Facility Standards - Inpatient Care (First Edition) Accredited until 2022
  • COHSASA Healthcare Facility Standards - Ambulatory Care (First Edition) Accredited until 2022
  • COHSASA/HPCA Palliative Care Standards - (Fourth Edition) Accredited until 2024

The programme developed by COHSASA builds capacity in local organisations so that they can take ownership of the programme from the outset. Due to the COVID pandemic, COHSASA has adjusted its processes for public health reasons. Remote surveys and training sessions (either entirely remote or hybrid where one COHSASA professional staff member is on site) are now the means of assisting healthcare facilities to completing the requirements for accreditation.

Initial training is followed by a baseline assessment, where all departments in a facility are assessed against the standards. In an average hospital (+/- 100 beds) about 3,500 measurable elements are evaluated. Quality Advisors (QAs) then train and support staff in quality assurance concepts, quality improvement methods and self-evaluation so that ownership of the data and the overall programme is quickly established.

The Council has introduced a graded recognition process where incremental levels of progress in achieving compliance with standards are recognised through certification. COHSASA certifies departments within facilities and facilities that do not achieve full accreditation but have achieved acceptable and safe levels of standards compliance and service delivery. This has the effect of encouraging efforts towards full compliance with standards and institutionalising quality improvement.

The web-based electronic COHSASA Quality Information System (CoQIS) allows facility staff to have access to a continuous, easy-to-use management tool that assists them to run their establishments efficiently. CoQIS captures all the evaluation data compiled by surveyors and quality advisors during a baseline survey. This enables users to understand the baseline situation in healthcare facilities, identify deficiencies, prioritise interventions and monitor improving compliance with standards at individual facilities and across groups of them.

The information system enables personnel in healthcare facilities to have direct access to quality improvement data so that they can monitor their performance against standards. CoQIS supports on-going quality improvement programmes in all areas of healthcare facilities and enables management at all levels to make informed decisions when responding to deficiencies. CoQIS guides hospital management and clinical staff to make targeted, realistic and sustained interventions that will improve quality in a facility.

The quality improvement and accreditation programmes together offer a highly efficient and effective mechanism for improving patient and staff safety. They enable staff to take responsibility for the quality of patient care and provide invaluable data for research to identify trends that can further improve the care of patients. With staff doing the right thing first time and avoiding errors, the cost effectiveness of care is also improved.

COHSASA offers its services to meet individual client needs so that healthcare facilities are equipped for the long-term to meet the safety and quality health needs of the population they serve in the most efficient and cost-effective manner possible.