The Eastern Cape health department’s call centre has been hailed as one of the best in the country as it boasts, among other things, quick response time to emergency queries.
The call centre, established in 2004, started as a help desk manned by one person. It has grown rapidly and today has a staff complement of about 80.
Its main objective is to provide a platform for communities to have access to medical advice, to report inefficient public health facilities and handle tip-offs on corruption.
Zandisile Ntlube, the head of the call centre, said the facility was initially located in Bhisho, but due to the high volume of calls and the need to increase staff, it was moved to East London.
“The call centre is able to direct patients where they should go. The idea was to bring service delivery up to speed. We ensure that our clients’ problems are resolved and we do follow-ups when we have assisted them,” Ntlube said.
The call centre service is available 24 hours a day and is run by trained agents, Ntlube said.
It has on standby, a specialised team of HIV/Aids and TB counsellors who give emergency telephonic advice to patients. There is also a team of doctors who telephonically give medical advice to patients who have no quick access to medical assistance.
“We run a toll-free line, an email call centre and an SMS service which has been integrated with social media platforms. This allows our clients to send pictures and videos if they have queries relating to service at public health care facilities.”
Among other services rendered by the call centre is linking HIV patients with the health department’s therapeutic committee, which deals with patients who do not respond to treatment, explained Ntlube.
“I think we are the best because we are running the call centre on our own. Our clients are also happy because we resolve queries up to the last minute. We also do a satisfaction index and we ask our clients to rate us.
“If a client is not happy, we go back to them and make sure we get it right,” Ntlube said.
He said on September 17 the department would host an open day and exhibition of the call centre.
In June, oral health director for the national health department, Dr Mzimkhulu Mcuba, wrote a letter to the Eastern Cape health department, commending the call centre on its work. He described it as the “most effective in the country”.
In the letter, Dr Mcuba said he was impressed by the short time to answer the phone, the “pleasantness” of the call centre agents answering the phone and “completeness when dealing with the complaint (getting all needed information and calling the facility where the complaint was about)”.
“I have dealt with all the provinces trying to resolve many patients’ complaints and only Gauteng and Eastern Cape answer their call centres. Only the Eastern Cape call centre follows up until the complaint is resolved or closed,” he said.
Presidential hotline director Melisizwe Bleki said on his visit to the call centre, he was impressed by the speed at which the agents dealt with queries.
“The staff has expert product knowledge. What stands out about the call centre is that it is run by the department.
“I also found it to be organised. Mr Ntlube is passionate about the work he does and he commands a lot respect from his staff,” Bleki said.