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Arch Hellen Med, 30(1), January-February 2013, 67-78


Patient complaints at three public hospitals in Greece: Who cares?

P. Minaki,1,2 E. Samoli,1 M. Theodorou2
1Department of Hygiene, Epidemiology and Medical Statistics, Medical School, National and Kapodistrian University of Athens, Athens, Greece,
2MA Course in "Health Care Management", Open University of Cyprus, Nicosia, Cyprus

OBJECTIVE Evaluation of the process implemented for handling formal written complaints in public hospitals, in the context of effective management, orderly hospital operation and continuous improvement of the quality of the services provided.

METHOD A descriptive study at one specialized and two general university hospitals in the Athens area of all the letters of complaints (n=105), submitted during the period 2008−2010, with their answers (n=78), where given. Interviews (n=6) were conducted to record the views of the members of the Committees of Citizen Rights Advocacy who handled these complaints. In data analysis were used both quantitative and qualitative methods.

RESULTS The complaints had been submitted in approximately equal proportion by patients (51.4%) and relatives of patients (48.6%), and were related mainly to the outpatient clinics (40.4%), and the medical (16.4%) and emergency (9.6%) departments. Major sources of dissatisfaction leading to complaint submission were the ineffective framework of administrative procedures (32.1%), the inappropriate behavior of staff (24.7%), the inadequate medical and nursing care of patients (21.8%), the poor communication between the hospital and the users (20.6%) and the excessive waiting time (19%). Almost half of the complainants wanted the incident to become known at a higher level of administration, with nearly 6 in 10 demanding measures to be taken in order to solve the indicated problems or punish the hospital staff named as offenders. In terms of management, it was found that the majority of complainants had received a response, but it appeared to be no clear intent of the hospital to solve the problem or take specific corrective action. Hospital managers usually deny or contradict serious allegations and, in addition, the committees responsible for complaints management appear to be reluctant to clearly recommend sanctions against putative perpetrators.

CONCLUSIONS This particular method of complaints handling does not appear to work, neither as a tool for system feedback and effective management, nor as a means of the complainants' relief. Conversely, it corroborates an authoritarian mechanism which does not sufficiently respect the patients and their relatives and does not learn from its mistakes, as it fails to recognize them.

Key words: Greece, Patient complaints management, Public hospitals.

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