Human Resources

Getting Treatment and Care to the Last Mile: Analyzing the Health Surveillance Assistant Cadre in Malawi
Martiniuk A, Smith S, Deveridge A, Berman J, Negin J, Mwambene N, Chingaipe E: Africa Initiative Discussion Paper 10, 23 2014

As low- and middle-income countries face continued shortages of human resources for health and the double burden of infectious and chronic diseases, there is renewed international interest in the potential for community health workers to take on a growing role in strengthening health systems. Health surveillance assistants (HSAs) — as the community health cadre in Zomba District, Malawi is known — play a vital role by connecting the community with the formal health care sector. The latest research from the Africa Initiative provides a situational analysis of the HSA cadre and its contribution to the delivery of health services in Malawi. The authors’ findings show that HSAs face numerous challenges related to training, as well as challenges in defining their roles and those of their supervisors. They conclude with recommendations to improve HSA training and policy, with the ultimate goal of improving the effectiveness of this cadre of worker, and improving the health of the population.

Pilot-testing service-based planning for health care in rural Zambia
Goma F, Murphy G, Libetwa M et al: BMC Health Services Research 14(Suppl 1):S7, 2014

The objective of the study was to demonstrate the effectiveness of service-based human resources for health (HRH) planning through its adaptation in two rural Zambian districts, Gwembe and Chibombo. The health conditions causing the greatest mortality and morbidity in each district were identified using administrative data and consultations with community health committees and health workers. The number and type of health care services required to address these conditions were estimated based on their population sizes, incidence and prevalence of each condition, and desired levels of service. The capacity of each district’s health workers to provide these services was estimated using a survey of health workers (n=44) that assessed the availability of their specific competencies. The primary health conditions identified in the two districts were HIV/AIDS in Gwembe and malaria in Chibombo. Although the competencies of the existing health workforces in these two mostly aligned with these conditions, some substantial gaps were found between the services the workforce can provide and the services their populations need. The largest gaps identified in both districts were: performing laboratory testing and interpreting results, performing diagnostic imaging and interpreting results, taking and interpreting a patient’s medical history, performing a physical examination, identifying and diagnosing the illness in question, and assessing eligibility for antiretroviral treatment.

Supporting middle-cadre health care workers in Malawi: Lessons learned during implementation of the PALM PLUS package
Sodhi S, Banda H, Kathyola D, et al: BMC Health Services Research 14(Suppl 1):S8, 2014

The government of Malawi is committed to the rollout of antiretroviral treatment in Malawi in the public health sector; however one of the primary challenges has been the shortage of trained health care workers. The Practical Approach to Lung Health Plus HIV/AIDS in Malawi (PALM PLUS) package is an innovative guideline and training intervention that supports primary care middle-cadre health care workers to provide front-line integrated primary care. The purpose of this paper is to describe the lessons learned in implementing the PALM PLUS package. A clinical tool, based on algorithm- and symptom-based guidelines was adapted to the Malawian context. An accompanying training program based on educational outreach principles was developed and a cascade training approach was used for implementation of the PALM PLUS package in 30 health centres, targeting clinical officers, medical assistants, and nurses. Lessons learned were identified during program implementation through engagement with collaborating partners and program participants and review of program evaluation findings. Key lessons learned for successful program implementation of the PALM PLUS package include the importance of building networks for peer-based support, ensuring adequate training capacity, making linkages with continuing professional development accreditation and providing modest in-service training budgets. The main limiting factors to implementation were turnover of staff and desire for financial training allowances.

Factors affecting motivation and retention of primary health care workers in three disparate regions in Kenya
Ojakaa D, Olango S, Jarvis J: Human Resources for Health, 12:33, 6 June 2014.

This study investigated factors influencing motivation and retention of HCWs at primary health care facilities in three different settings in Kenya - the remote area of Turkana, the relatively accessible region of Machakos, and the disadvantaged informal urban settlement of Kibera in Nairobi. A cross-sectional cluster sample design was used to select 59 health facilities that yielded interviews with 404 health care workers, grouped into 10 different types of service providers. Data were collected in November 2011 using structured questionnaires and a Focus Group Discussion guide. Findings were analyzed using bivariate and multivariate methods of the associations and determinants of health worker motivation and retention. The levels of education and gender factors were lowest in Turkana with female HCWs representing only 30% of the workers against a national average of 53%. A smaller proportion of HCWs in Turkana feel that they have adequate training for their jobs. Overall, 13% of the HCWs indicated that they had changed their job in the last 12 months and 20% indicated that they could leave their current job within the next two years. In terms of work environment, inadequate access to electricity, equipment, transport, housing, and the physical state of the health facility were cited as most critical, particularly in Turkana. The working environment is rated as better in private facilities. Adequate training, job security, salary, supervisor support, and manageable workload were identified as critical satisfaction factors. Family health care, salary, and terminal benefits were rated as important There are distinct motivational and retention factors that affect HCWs in the three regions. Findings and policy implications from this study point to a set of recommendations to be implemented at national and county levels. These include gender mainstreaming, development of appropriate retention schemes, competitive compensation packages, strategies for career growth, establishment of a model HRH community, and the conduct of a discrete choice experiment.

Task-shifting and prioritization: A situational analysis examining the role and experiences of community health workers in Malawi
Smith S, Deveridge A, Berman J, Negin J, Mwambene N, Chingaipe E, Puchalski-Ritchie L, Martiniuk A: Human Resources for Health 12:24, 2014

The objective of this study was to understand the performed versus documented roles of the HSAs, to examine how tasks were prioritized, and to understand HSAs’ perspectives on their roles and responsibilities. A situational analysis of the HSA cadre and its contribution to the delivery of health services in Zomba district, Malawi was conducted. Focus groups and interviews were conducted with 70 HSAs. Observations of three HSAs performing duties and work diaries from five HSAs were collected. Lastly, six policy-maker and seven HSA supervisor interviews and a document review were used to further understand the cadre’s role and to triangulate collected data. HSAs performed a variety of tasks in addition to those outlined in the job description resulting in issues of overloading, specialization and competing demands existing in the context of task-shifting and prioritization. Not all HSAs were resistant to the expansion of their role despite role confusion and HSAs feeling they lacked adequate training, remuneration and supervision. HSAs also said that increasing workload was making completing their primary duties challenging. Considerations for policy-makers include the division of roles of HSAs in prevention versus curative care; community versus centre-based activities; and the potential specialization of HSAs. This study provides insights into HSAs’ perceptions of their work, their expanding role and their willingness to change the scope of their practice. There are clear decision points for policy-makers regarding future direction in policy and planning in order to maximize the cadre’s effectiveness in addressing the country’s health priorities.

Placement, support, and retention of health professionals: national, cross-sectional findings from medical and dental community service officers in South Africa
Hatcher AM, Onah M, Kornick S, Peacocke J, Reid S: Human Resources for Health 12(14): 2014

In South Africa, community service following medical training serves as a mechanism for equitable distribution of health professionals and their professional development. Community service officers are required to contribute a year towards serving in a public health facility while receiving supervision and remuneration. Although the South African community service programme has been in effect since 1998, little is known about how placement and practical support occur, or how community service may impact future retention of health professionals. National, cross-sectional data were collected from community service officers who served during 2009 using a structured self-report questionnaire. A Supervision Satisfaction Scale (SSS) was created by summing scores of five questions rated on a three-point Likert scale (orientation, clinical advising, ongoing mentorship, accessibility of clinic leadership, and handling of community service officers’ concerns). Research endpoints were guided by community service programmatic goals and analysed as dichotomous outcomes. Bivariate and multivariate logistical regressions were conducted using Stata 12. The sample population comprised 685 doctors and dentists (response rate 44%). Although few participants planned to continue work in rural, underserved communities (n = 171 out of 657 responses, 25%), those serving in a rural facility during the community service year had higher intentions of continuing rural work. Those reporting professional development during the community service year were twice as likely to report intentions to remain in rural, underserved communities. Despite challenges in equitable distribution of practitioners, participant satisfaction with the compulsory community service programme appears to be high among those who responded to a 2009 questionnaire. An emphasis on professional development and supervision is crucial if South Africa is to build practitioner skills, equitably distribute health professionals, and retain the medical workforce in rural, underserved areas.

Empirical impact evaluation of the WHO global code of practice on the international recruitment of health personnel in Australia, Canada, UK and USA
Edge JS; Hoffman SJ: Globalization and Health 9; 60: November 2013

The active recruitment of health workers from developing countries to developed countries has become a major threat to global health. In an effort to manage this migration, the 63rd World Health Assembly adopted the World Health Organization (WHO) Global Code of Practice on the International Recruitment of Health Personnel in May 2010. While the Code has been lauded as the first globally-applicable regulatory framework for health worker recruitment, its impact has yet to be evaluated. The authors offer the first empirical evaluation of the Code’s impact on national and sub-national actors in Australia, Canada, United Kingdom and United States of America, which are the English-speaking high income countries with the greatest number of migrant health workers. Forty two key informants from across government, civil society and private sectors were surveyed. Sixty percent of respondents believed their colleagues were not aware of the Code, and 93% reported that no specific changes had been observed in their work as a result of the Code. 86% reported that the Code has not had any meaningful impact on policies, practices or regulations in their countries. This suggests a gap between awareness of the Code among stakeholders at global forums and the awareness and behaviour of national and sub-national actors. Advocacy and technical guidance for implementing the Code are needed to improve its impact on national decision- makers.

Restructuring brain drain: strengthening governance and financing for health worker migration
Mackey TK; Liang BA: Global Health Action, 6: 19923 2013

Health worker migration from resource-poor countries to developed countries, also known as ‘brain drain’, represents a serious global health crisis and a significant barrier to achieving global health equity. Resource-poor countries are unable to recruit and retain health workers for domestic health systems, resulting in inadequate health infrastructure and millions of dollars in healthcare investment losses. Using acceptable methods of policy analysis, the authors first assess current strategies aimed at alleviating brain drain and then propose our own global health policy based solution to address current policy limitations. Although governments and private organizations have tried to address this policy challenge, brain drain continues to destabilise public health systems and their populations globally. Most importantly, lack of adequate financing and binding governance solutions continue to fail to prevent health worker brain drain. In response to these challenges, the establishment of a Global Health Resource Fund in conjunction with an international framework for health worker migration could create global governance for stable funding mechanisms encourage equitable migration pathways, and provide data collection that is desperately needed.

Comprehensive health workforce planning: re-consideration of the primary health care approach as a tool for addressing the human resource for health crisis in low and middle income countries
Munga MA, Mughwira A. Mwangu: Tanzania Journal of Health Research, 15:2 2013

Although the Human Resources for Health (HRH) crisis is apparently not new in the public health agenda of many countries, not many low and middle income countries are using Primary Health Care (PHC) as a tool for planning and addressing the crisis in a comprehensive manner. The aim of this paper is to appraise the inadequacies of the existing planning approaches in addressing the growing HRH crisis in resource limited settings. A descriptive literature review of selected case studies in middle and low income countries reinforced with the evidence from Tanzania was used. Consultations with experts in the field were also made. In this review, we propose a conceptual framework that describes planning may only be effective if it is structured to embrace the fundamental principles of PHC. We place the core principles of PHC at the centre of HRH planning as we acknowledge its major perspective that the effectiveness of any public health policy depends on the degree to which it envisages to address public health problems multi-dimensionally and comprehensively. The proponents of PHC approach in planning have identified inter-sectoral action and collaboration and comprehensive approach as the two basic principles that policies and plans should accentuate in order to make them effective in realizing their pre-determined goals. Two conclusions are made: Firstly, comprehensive health workforce planning is not widely known and thus not frequently used in HRH planning or analysis of health workforce issues; Secondly, comprehensiveness in HRH planning is important but not sufficient in ensuring that all the ingredients of HRH crisis are eliminated. In order to be effective and sustainable, the approach need to evoke three basic values namely effectiveness, efficiency and equity.

Perceived Impact of Health Sector Reform on Motivation of Health Workers and Quality of Health Care in Tanzania: the Perspectives of Healthcare Workers and District Council Health Managers in Four Districts
Mubyazi GM, Njunwa KJ: Rwanda Journal of Health Sciences, 2:1: 2013

Literature on the impact of health sector reform (HSR) on motivation of healthcare workers (HWs) and performance in health service provision in developing countries is still limited. This paper describes the impact of HSR on HW motivation and performance in providing quality health care in Tanzania. Methods: Four districts selected from three regions were covered, involving in-depth interviews with HWs in public health facilities (HFs), focus group discussions with district managers and researchers’ observations. The cost-sharing system in public HFs and national health ‘basket’ funding system introduced in 1990s were the key HSR elements identified by the study participants as impacting on HWs motivation and performance. User-fees for public healthcare services was acknowledged as having supplemented government funds allocated to public HFs, although such facilities still experienced ‘stock-outs’ of essential medicines and other supplies, HF understaffing, low/lack of essential remuneration, shortage of and unrepaired staff houses, meagre office space, lack of transport facilities for emergency cases, minimal recognition of HWs at local primary healthcare committees and the district health service budgeting system being controlled by district and central level authorities, leaving little room for lower level stakeholders to participate. For the national healthcare system to succeed, the authors argue that HSRs will need to involve and motivate HWs who are frontline implementers of the reform strategies.