Stakeholder perceptions of human resource requirements for health services based on primary health care and implemented through a national health insurance scheme
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In 2007, at its 52nd Conference in Polokwane, the African National Congress (ANC) called for the implementation of a National Health Insurance (NHI) scheme. The announcement resulted in much debate, with critics voicing concerns about the state of the public health system, lack of consultation and the expense of a NHI scheme. However, little attention has been paid to the human resource (HR) needs, despite the fact that 57% of recurrent expenditure on health1 is on HR. This research aimed to identify the HR requirements to support the implementation of an effective and equitable health system funded by a NHI in South Africa. An overview of the current burden of disease and distribution of HR is provided. Through interviewing key stakeholders the study attempted to elicit information about factors which will hamper or assist in developing such a health system, specifically looking at the HR situation and needs. The research explores HR odels and proposes key HR requirements for implementation of a health system funded by a NHI in South Africa, including skills mix and projected numbers of health workers and proposes ways to improve the deficient HR situation. Exploratory qualitative research methods were used comprising in-depth individual interviews, with a purposive sample of key informants, including: public health professionals and health managers (working in rural and urban areas); researchers; academics and NGO managers. The contents of the interviews were analysed to identify common responses about and suggestions for HR requirements within the framework of a NHI. 1 Personal communication Dr Mark Blecher, Director Social Services (Health), National Treasury, 17 July 2009 The literature review includes policy documents, position papers and articles from journals and bulletins. Key informants were asked to identify literature and research material to support recommendations. The research findings indicate that despite the South African Government’s expressed commitment to Primary Health Care (PHC), the National Department of Health has continued to support and sustain a clinical model of health service delivery (Motsoaledi, 2010), primarily utilising doctors and nurses. The clinic based services are limited in their ability to reach community level, and, being focused on curative aspects, are often inadequate with regard to prevention, health promotion and rehabilitation services. While the curricula of health professionals have been through some changes, the training has continued to be curative in focus and the clinical training sites have not been significantly expanded to include peripheral sites. While there are many Community Health Workers in the country, they remain disorganised and peripheral to the public health system. The mid level worker category has not been fully explored. Finally there are no clear strategies for recruitment and retention of health workers in rural and under-resourced areas. In addition to the continued use of a clinical model, transformation of the health system hasbeen hampered by inadequate numbers of health workers, particularly in the rural and periurban townships and informal settlements. There is no clear strategy for addressing the critical health worker shortage in under-resourced areas, particularly rural areas. The last section makes recommendations, which will be submitted to the relevant task teams working on the NHI. It is intended that recommendations arising out of the research will influence the process and decisions about HRH within a NHI funded health system.
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