The knowledge and perceptions of the medical staff about chiropractic at the Kimberly [i.e. Kimberley] Hospital Complex
Background: In order to develop a balanced healthcare system, healthcare integration and inter-professional communication is important and allows for optimum healthcare benefits for a patient and improves cost-effectiveness. The chiropractic profession has been trying to improve inter-professional communication with the medical profession. Kimberly Hospital Complex (KHC) is a tertiary provincial hospital situated in the Northern Cape and since 1998, a permanent chiropractic post exists at this hospital, making it the only state hospital in South Africa with a full-time chiropractic clinic and post. Purpose: To determine the knowledge and perceptions of the medical staff about chiropractic at KHC. Method: This study was achieved by means of a questionnaire, which was modified to suit a South African context by means of a focus group. The questionnaire was personally delivered to 975 medical staff members at KHC. A response rate of 30% (n = 292) was achieved and the data was analysed using SPSS version 15 (SPSS Inc., Chicago, III, USA). Results: The mean age of the respondents was 37.3 years and most were female (78.9%, n = 289). Doctors (62.5%, n = 54) and therapists (61.6%, n = 10) had a higher knowledge percentage score than nurses (48%, n = 213) or other healthcare professions (56.8%, n = 15). Doctors (77.8%, n = 42), therapists (100%, n = 10) and other healthcare professions (69.2%, n = 9) were more inclined to think that chiropractic is an alternative healthcare service, while nurses perceived chiropractic as a primary healthcare service (43.3%, n = 91). Many respondents were unaware of the fact that Diagnostics, Emergency Medical Care, Pharmacology and Radiology are included in the chiropractic curriculum and that chiropractic leads to a Master’s degree. Seventy five percent (n = 203) believed that chiropractors are competent in the general medical iv management of patients, but they would still rather refer patients to physiotherapists and orthopaedic surgeons. Despite the poor level of knowledge of chiropractic, 79.2% (n = 224) believed that it is sufficiently different from physiotherapy to warrant two separate professions and few (24%, n = 69) perceived it as unscientific. A large proportion of the respondents (80.3%, n = 228) believe that chiropractic is not well promoted in South Africa and only 20.8% (n = 59) felt that they know enough about the profession to advise a patient. The majority wanted to learn more about the chiropractic profession (95.8%, n = 277), especially pertaining to the scope and the treatment employed by chiropractors. Seventy-nine percent (n = 212) believed that patients benefit from chiropractic at KHC and 95.4% (n = 268) felt that South African hospitals would benefit from chiropractic care. Conclusion: Due to the poor level of knowledge at KHC, an educational drive should be employed to educate the medical staff in order to increase their understanding of chiropractic and to aid chiropractic integration into the state hospital system of South Africa.