oa South African Family Practice - Doctors' views of working conditions in rural hospitals in the Western Cape : original research

Volume 46, Issue 3
  • ISSN : 2078-6190
  • E-ISSN: 2078-6204



There has been a lively debate in the media about working conditions in rural South African hospitals, with a particular focus on staffing and quality of care. From a medical perspective, it has been stated that poorly equipped and managed hospitals, inappropriate training and an excessive workload are significant contributors to the problem. This study was conducted to investigate the experiences of medical practitioners in performing their professional duties in rural district hospitals in the Western Cape. Twenty in-depth, free-attitude interviews were conducted. <br>Three major themes became apparent from the data, namely the importance of situational factors, knowledge and skills, and support structures. Two conceptual frameworks emerged from the themes that describe the impact of working conditions on the quality of care, and captured positive and negative factors influencing performance. This study provides evidence that substantial after-hour duties, an excessive workload and a perceived lack of management support impact negatively on doctors' views of working in district hospitals. Unless these are addressed, the problem of retaining medical staff in rural hospitals will continue, and equity of access to health services for rural communities will remain an unfulfilled obligation. Recommendations are made on how these issues can be addressed.

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