oa South African Health Review - Strengthening human resources for Primary Health Care : Primary Health Care : systems support

Volume 2008 Number 1
  • ISSN : 1025-1715



This chapter reviews the progress made in recent years to strengthen human resources to deliver health care within a Primary Health Care approach. It focuses specifically on the availability and preparedness of old and new cadres of health workers, their distribution within the South African health system, as well as their training and development. Findings suggest that overall the health workforce is substantially weaker today than it was in the mid-1990s. There are fewer doctors and nurses available for the vast majority of public sector dependent population, as production has not kept up with population growth, increasing care needs and attrition. Disparities between provinces remain, and disparities between the private and public sectors have grown. The nursing sector faces a serious crisis brought on by an aging professional population. Progress with the development of mid-level cadres has been slow, with pharmacy being the exception. Furthermore, the implementation of community health worker programmes remains fragmented and uneven. Importantly, while there has been curriculum reform in many medical schools, there has been no fundamental shift in the orientation and resourcing of health professions. Health workers entering primary or community care services, thus, often remain ill-prepared and find themselves poorly supported and resourced. It is suggested that the following areas must be a priority in the human resource agenda in coming years : an accelerated production of professionals and mid-level cadres; comprehensive curriculum audits; the regulation and integration of community health workers; and an integrated and comprehensive reconfiguration of Primary Health Care teams.

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