oa South African Family Practice - Perceptions of hospital managers regarding the impact of doctors' community service : original research
<I>Background:</I> In South Africa, the distribution of doctors is skewed in favour of the urban areas, but it is not uncommon to find many peri-urban facilities in short supply of doctors. In 1997, the South African government introduced compulsory community service (CS) to address this uneven distribution of doctors in the country. The CS doctors posted to the Letaba-Sekororo hospital complex in Limpopo Province refused to take up their appointments for various reasons, ranging from lack of supervision to poor basic infrastructure. This study is one of the earliest conducted to understand the perceptions of hospital managers on the impact of the national community service on the health service. <BR><I>Methods:</I> After ethical approval was obtained from the Research, Ethics and Publications Committee (REPC) of the Medical University of Southern Africa (now University of Limpopo - Medunsa Campus), three focus group interviews were conducted with hospital managers from three purposefully selected hospitals. The interviews were audio-visually taped and supplemented with field notes, transcribed verbatim, with themes identified using the 'cut and paste' and 'colour coding' methods. Combined themes were categorised and interpreted within the context of the study and the available literature. <BR><I>Results:</I> CS has improved health services delivery, alleviated work pressure, and improved the image of hospital managers. In addition, it has provided a constant supply of manpower, and increased the utilisation of health services by the community. The negative perceptions identified included a lack of experience and skills, poor relationships with the rural health team, lack of support structures for CS doctors, poor continuity of care and budgetary constraints. <BR><I> Conclusions:</I> Hospital managers perceive CS to have had a positive impact on the supply of needed manpower, health service delivery and patient care. As this was a qualitative study, further quantitative and community-oriented studies are required to validate the results.
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