An evaluation of the management of rural ward-based primary health care : a case study of Uthukela District Municipality in KwaZulu-Natal
Zulu, Margaret Thandeka
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The shortage of staff in hospitals resulted in the overcrowding of outpatients departments (OPDs) and long waiting times. The problems of the current health care system include the lack of access to transportation and high transport fees which cause delays in health seeking behaviours by patients or them resorting to traditional medicine in their neighbourhood. To alleviate the above issues, the new Primary Health Care (PHC) approach provides health care at a ward based and household level through community care giver (CCGs) and outreach teams. The study evaluated the management of rural ward-based primary health care in the UThukela District Municipality (UDM). The study intended to evaluate current performance systems in order to provide effective and efficient PHC; identify the role of the operational manager (OM) in the provision of PHC; and identify the factors affecting the performance of CCGs. A mixed methods approach was used amongst 368 CCGs and 17 OMs. Data was collected from CCGs using questionnaires while an interview schedule was used to collect data from OMs. The study showed that the performance management systems currently being used were not providing the desired performance management outputs. There were no performance bonuses to recognise best performing staff and therefore no increase in performance. The study also showed a significant relationship between the management of referrals and participation in the activities of PHC outreach teams. The clinic was not regularly giving feedback to the respondents and also not consistently conducting performance reviews. The findings indicated that OMs were playing various roles in the provision of PHC, namely policy and strategy implementation; leadership and governance; clinical care; allocation of resources; clinic budget management; supply chain management; and writing clinic reports. The extent of the allocation of resources to the wards varied from 43% for medicines and equipment to 31% for financial resources and only 18% for human resources. More than 95% of the CCGs viewed the availability of transport, resources, training and the provision of a stipend to be strong enabling factors for them to perform their work. Respondents indicated that monitoring and evaluation was done through reporting, performance reviews, feedback and supervision. The findings indicated that ward-based outreach teams are crucial in the delivery of PHC services in rural municipal wards within the Operation Sukuma Sakhe programme. Lack of management and supervisory support contribute to high rates of dissatisfaction amongst CCGs, as well as poor quality of work for community caregivers. There is a need for the Department of Health (DoH) to invest in the ward-based outreach teams (WBOTs) and allocate CCG budgets within the ward-based outreach teams. The study recommended that a review of monitoring and evaluation policy is required to clearly state the tools, activities and benefits of the implementation of the M & E performance management systems. The use of point-of-care technology by the WBOTs should be strengthened especially in deep rural wards. Therefore, biomedical technology will enhance point-of-care diagnosis, for instance, rapid home test kits for HIV diagnosis and pregnancy tests. The KwaZulu-Natal DoH should fast-track development of the sub-districts in order strengthen service delivery at a local level with top management ensuring development of OMs and PHC Supervisors in order to increase the level of competence and thereby improve service delivery at the PHC facilities. Another recommendation was to strengthen implementation of Operation Sukuma Sakhe (OSS) where the war room and the ward committee increase commitment to designing community-specific interventions with the engagement of community structures and government departments and local municipality through social planning, social action and locality development. Therefore, the results of the study should also influence the formulation of policies, programmes, methods and interventions which will enable UThukela District Municipality to improve health outcomes.